11th Circuit blocks Miccosukee Tribe from collecting award
The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida can't turn to the federal court system to enforce a tribal court judgment, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a decision last week.

The tribe and Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. went to tribal court over disputed payments. The tribe eventually won a judgment for $1.65 million against the company's claim of $7 million.

The tribe filed suit in federal court when the company refused to pay. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the company was denied due process because the tribal council acts as the tribal court of appeals and refused to hear the case.

The 11th Circuit, however, said the federal court system lacked jurisdiction over the matter altogether. Even though both the tribe and the company agreed the dispute arose under federal common law, the court said the tribe failed to state a claim.

"The Supreme Court has made clear, however, that vague assertions by Indian-tribe plaintiffs regarding federal common law to support federal question jurisdiction will not suffice," the decision stated.

"Likewise, here, the tribe has failed to explain the specific prescription of federal common law that enables it to maintain an action to enforce a judgment handed down by a tribal court in a proceeding to which the defendant consented by contract," the court said.

Get the Story:
Tribe Can't Enforce $1.6M Judgment Against Builder (Couthouse News Service 6/3)

11th Circuit Decision:
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians v. Kraus-Anderson Company (May 28, 2010)