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Alaska disputes tribal court jurisdiction in child welfare case

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: alaska, alaska native, jurisdiction, tribal courts

After prosecuting a serial domestic abuser for severely beating his girlfriend, the state of Alaska is helping a Native man challenge the jurisdiction of a tribal court in a child welfare case.

Edward Parks was found to be an unfit parent by the tribal court in the village of Minto due to repeated abuse of his girlfriend. But the state claims the tribe lacks jurisdiction because he is a member of a different Alaska tribe.

If the argument is accepted by the Alaska state courts, it means tribal courts will be severely restricted in their attempt to exercise jurisdiction over all American Indians and Alaska Natives. Inter-tribal marriage is common in the state.

"Tribes, especially in Alaska, are so small that nobody's going to marry someone in their own tribe because they're mostly related within two degrees of blood," Natalie Landreth, a Native American Rights Fund attorney, told The Anchorage Daily News.

The argument would also place tribal courts in Alaska in a different position than those in the lower 48. Tribes, generally, are able to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction over all Indians, regardless of whether the person belongs to the same tribe.

Parks, who was found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting his girlfriend earlier this month in state court, lost custody of his daughter to the cousin of the child's mother. His civil lawsuit against the Minto court is pending in the Alaska Supreme Court.

Get the Story:
In challenging tribal court, state goes to bat for man convicted of beating his wife (The Anchorage Daily News 8/25)

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