Alaska Supreme Court hears dispute over tribal court authority

The justices of the Alaska Supreme Court. Photo from University of Alaska Fairbanks

The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in a tribal court authority dispute that affects the protection of Native children.

A judge ruled that the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes can resolve child welfare cases in their own court system. The state must recognize tribal court orders in those cases, the judge determined.

"After hearing legal arguments from both sides, the superior court agreed with the tribe and issued an order requiring the state to recognize the tribe’s child support orders under a state statute about enforcing out-of-state child support orders and to enforce the tribe’s orders as it would child support orders from other states," a summary from the Supreme Court reads. "It later ordered the state to pay attorney’s fees to the tribe."

The state appealed. Oral arguments were held in Ketchikan, which is part of Tlingit and Haida territory.

The case is part of a long-running challenge to the authority of tribal courts by state officials, including former attorney general Dan Sullivan (R), who won election to the Senate, and Gov. Sean Parnell (R), who lost his re-election bid.

Video of the hearing can be found at 360 North. Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, State of Alaska v. Central Council of Haida and Tlingit Indian Tribes.

Get the Story:
Alaska Supreme Court to hear case at Kayhi (KRBD 11/18)

Related Stories:
APRN: Alaska tribe to receive overdue child support funding (03/07)
Alaska tribe to receive child welfare funds under agreement (03/01)
APRN: Tlingit-Haida Tribes win Indian child welfare dispute (11/01)
Alaska judge rules for tribe in Indian child welfare case (10/31)

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