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Nooksack Tribe interferes with judicial branch and disbars law firm

Attorney Gabe Galanda discusses disenrollment in Indian Country. Photo from Facebook

Leaders of the Nooksack Tribe of Washington have taken an unusual but perhaps unsurprising step in their bid to remove 306 people from the rolls.

The tribal council disbarred prominent attorney Gabe Galanda and the Galanda Broadman law firm from representing anyone in tribal court or in any other tribal forum. The move -- which apparently was not disclosed to Galanda in advance -- means members of the Nooksack 306 have to represent themselves or find somebody else.

The situation has alarmed Judge Susan Alexander, who is handling the Nooksack 306 case. She has asked the tribal council to explain whether Broadman, who is a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and his firm were provided due process in accordance with the Indian Civil Rights Act.

"This judge has worked in Indian Country for more than twenty years and is well aware that the separation between the tribal executive/legislative branch and the tribal judicial branch is sometimes razor-thin," Alexander wrote in an order on Monday.

The Nooksack court is technically not an independent segment of the government, Alexander acknowledged, but she said the apparent lack of due process could affect the tribe's sovereignty.

"Nonetheless, in order to operate a proper independent, neutral, and fair tribal court, and in the interests of sovereignty and effective self-governance, it is essential to maintain separation, particularly where members of the executive/legislative branch are litigants in the court," she concluded.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Belmont v. Kelly.

Get the Story:
Nooksack Tribe bars lawyer for ‘306’ facing disenrollment (The Bellingham Herald 3/9)

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