Washburn: Iowa takes positive step on tribal courts

"Iowa's Legislature recently enacted a law that provides clearly for enforcement of tribal-court judgments in state courts. The law, signed by Gov. Chet Culver on Friday, contains numerous safeguards. And it applies only if the tribal court also recognizes Iowa's state-court judgments. Now, if a tribal court renders a lawful judgment (that is, the tribal court had proper jurisdiction and followed due process, etc.), an Iowa state court will enforce that judgment against assets outside the reservation.

Iowa will no longer be a safe haven for people evading lawful judgments. This law ensures justice for litigants, both Indian and non-Indian, who prevail in tribal courts and earn justice.

Minnesota recently addressed the same issue, but not so well. After chewing on the issue for two years, the Minnesota Supreme Court produced a rule so riddled with exceptions that it might create more uncertainty than before its rule.

Of course, where judges see ambiguity, lawyers see opportunity. Minnesota's rule will likely produce state-court litigation over tribal-court judgments. Iowa's clear rule, in contrast, minimizes such needless litigation.

Minnesota could learn a few things from the decisive action by the Iowa Legislature. If the new Iowa law puts Iowa's lawyers out of work, however, they can always find work in Minnesota. Nice work, Iowa."

Get the Story:
Kevin Washburn: Iowa credited for step to enforce tribal judgments (The Des Moines Register 5/29)

Relevant Links:
Meskwaki Tribe - http://www.meskwaki.org
Meskwaki Nation, myspace - http://www.myspace.com/meskwakination

Related Stories:
Meskwaki leader objects to tribal court bill (5/11)
Bill recognizes Meskwaki Tribe's court decisions (03/29)
County attorney disputes Meskwaki police powers (9/21)
Iowa opinion backs Meskwaki Tribe's police powers (9/20)
Meskwaki Tribe's new police force hits the streets (08/30)
Meskwaki Tribe prepares for first police force (06/09)
Meskwaki Tribe swears in chief for new police force (03/23)
Trending in News
More Headlines