Environment | Law

White Mountain Apache Tribe seeks default judgment in fire case





The White Mountain Apache Tribe is seeking a default judgment against a non-Indian woman who admitted she started a part of the worst fire in Arizona's history.

The tribe sued Valinda Jo Elliott in tribal court. She is disputing the tribe's jurisdiction but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that she must exhaust her tribal remedies before going to federal court.

Elliott asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case but the justices declined to grant the petition in Elliott v. White Mountain Apache Tribe back in November 2009.

More than two years later, the case remains unresolved. The tribe claims Elliott caused millions of dollars of damage to the reservation.

Leonard Gregg, a tribal member who admitted he started another part of the same fired, was charged in federal court, unlike Elliott. He was ordered to pay $27 million in restitution to his tribe.

The Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned 60 percent of the reservation, including valuable timer land.

Get the Story:
Woman who set Chediski Fire is still in court (The Arizona Republic 6/18)

9th Circuit Decision:
Elliott v. White Mountain Apache Tribe (May 14, 2009)