Home > News > More Headlines > Mont. court accepts tribal court convictions
Printer friendly version
Mont. court accepts tribal court convictions
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 2003

Tribal court records can be used against tribal members in state courts, the Montana Supreme Court ruled this week.

In a near unanimous decision, the court recognized four tribal court DUI convictions of Eugene Spotted Eagle, a member of the Blackfeet Nation. The vote in Monday's ruling was 5-1.

"To disregard a valid tribal court conviction would imply that Montana only recognizes the Blackfeet Tribe's right to self-government until it conflicts with Montana law," wrote Justice James C. Nelson for the majority.

The decision means that Spotted Eagle faces a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, sentence for a September 2001 drunk driving incident. State law allows prosecutors to "enhance" a DUI charge using tribal court records.

Spotted Eagle challenged the law on the grounds that the Blackfeet court system does not provide him with adequate protections under the U.S. Constitution. In Blackfeet court, for example, criminal defendants are not guaranteed a right to be represented by a lawyer. In state court, Spotted Eagle would be covered under the Sixth Amendment.

But the state countered that it should respect a tribe's right to self-governance. "A fundamental aspect of sovereignty is the respect accorded a sovereign by other sovereigns," wrote assistant attorney general Mark W. Mattioli in a brief. "Spotted Eagle's assertions that his prior DUI convictions were valid for purposes of tribal law, but not for purposes of Montana or federal law, is to accord second-class status to tribal sovereignty."

The majority of the Montana Supreme Court agreed with this line of thinking, noting that the state law in question is not used to determine guilt. But a dissenting judge questioned this logic and said he would have sided with Spotted Eagle.

"In true oxymoronic fashion, our court has said to Mr. Spotted Eagle, 'Out of deference to your tribe, we accord you fewer protections than guaranteed to individual citizens by the Montana Constitution,'" wrote Justice W. William Leaphart.

The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 provides certain guarantees to tribal members, many of which follow the U.S. Constitution. But it doesn't force tribes to comply with a Sixth Amendment right to counsel or a First Amendment separation of church and state.

Get the Decision:
State v. Spotted Eagle (June 23, 2003)

Relevant Documents:
Briefs, Opinions in State v. Spotted Eagle (State Law Library of Montana)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Navajo hairstyle (2/5)
Mark Trahant: Bernie Sanders campaign starts Indian policy group (2/5)
Charles Trimble: Taking responsibility for upkeep of our cemeteries (2/5)
Mary Annette Pember: Memorial to Indian genocide eyed in Russia (2/5)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I guess I'm just one of those 'crazy' Indians (2/5)
Judge weighs compromise for $380M in leftover Keepseagle funds (2/5)
Blackfeet Nation welcomes movement on water rights settlement (2/5)
Yakama Nation wins decision on cost of cleaning up contamination (2/5)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe confident of casino bid despite lawsuit (2/5)
Arizona sees 6.9 percent boost in gaming contributions from tribes (2/5)
Cowlitz Tribe close to reaching agreement with city for new casino (2/5)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation questions exclusion from casino process (2/5)
Tribal leaders question management changes at IHS in Great Plains (2/4)
IHS chief medical officer apologizes for comments about newborns (2/4)
Group sues IHS for records about water pollution on Yakama Nation (2/4)
Sen. McCain still bothered by failure to block Arizona tribe's casino (2/4)
Gun Lake Tribe announces retirement of longtime chair DK Sprague (2/4)
House Natural Resources Committee passes Indian bills at markup (2/4)
Samuel Winder: Indian defendants face harsher criminal penalties (2/4)
Charles Kader: Tribal burial grounds in Florida are being desecrated (2/4)
Roger Chelsey: Pamunkey Tribe clears last hurdle for federal status (2/4)
Reno Sparks Indian Colony mourns passing of leader William Coffey (2/4)
Native students convince school to name Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe supports move to Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
Coquille Tribe donates $100K to help college with health programs (2/4)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes help inmates reintegrate (2/4)
Little River Band hails BIA movement on off-reservation casino bid (2/4)
Lac Vieux Desert Band reopens hotel after disease scare at casino (2/4)
Eastern Cherokee council revives plan for bowling alley at casino (2/4)
Mark Trahant: Self-determination should be on table for campaign (2/3)
Bernie Sanders won Democratic precinct on Meskwaki Reservation (2/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes two water bills at meeting (2/3)
House committee approves Lytton Band bill with casino limitation (2/3)
Wounded Warriors Family Support reaches out to tribal veterans (2/3)
James Giago Davies: Only one candidate can help Indian Country (2/3)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation creates opportunity with casino (2/3)
Laura Waterman Wittstock: Horrors at facility for 'insane' Indians (2/3)
Tim Evans: Menominee Nation loses contract support costs case (2/3)
Indian Health Service makes changes ahead of big SCIA hearing (2/3)
Native man from Canada charged over death of eagle in Nevada (2/3)
Choctaw Nation plans work on $219M headquarters next month (2/3)
Federal judge dismisses Freedmen historical accounting lawsuit (2/3)
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians see turnaround at golf course (2/3)
4th Circuit won't recognize tribal authority in online lending case (2/3)
more headlines...

Advertisement

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.