Law | Opinion

Peter d'Errico: Nooksack Tribe fuels bad stereotypes about courts

The Nooksack Tribe of Washington is trying to remove 306 people from the rolls. Photo from The Nooksack 306 / Facebook

Tribal courts are already under intense scrutiny and retired professor Peter d'Errico doesn't think the Nooksack Tribe of Washington is helping matters by interfering with its judicial arm:
Let's look at how the Nooksack case plays into the negative stereotypes about Native legal systems:

On February 29, the Nooksack citizens targeted for “disenrollment” won an important motion in Nooksack Tribal Court, when Judge Susan Alexander affirmed their right to vote in the upcoming 2016 elections. But, apparently unbeknownst to these citizens, their lawyer, and the court itself, the Nooksack Tribal Council had taken steps on February 24 to disbar their lawyer.

On March 7, when the lawyers tried to file motions to get copies of council resolutions and related documents, the tribal judge said the council disbarment move prevented the court from accepting the motions, and that the citizens were now in a pro se status, i.e., they had to represent themselves.

The council did not directly deprive the Nooksack citizens of all legal representation, but it derailed their representation in the middle of the case. According to a statement filed in tribal court by the lawyers, the tribal council convened a special meeting during which it “resuscitated” a tribal resolution on business license procedures that had not been enforced for 30 years. The lawyers told the tribal judge their application for a business license had been returned by the Nooksack Chief Financial Officer, with a statement, “We…are not able to issue the requested license.”

Get the Story:
Peter d'Errico: Nooksack Council Tangles with Nooksack Court: Due Process at Stake (Indian Country Today 3/24)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories:
Nooksack Tribe slammed by judge for disbarring lawyer and firm (3/22)
Nooksack Tribe moves to disenroll even more people amid fight (3/17)
Nooksack Tribe interferes with judicial branch and disbars law firm (3/9)
Al Jazeera program focuses on tribal disenrollment controversies (3/4)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (02/10)
National campaign launched to stop tribal disenrollment epidemic (02/09)
Nooksack Tribe loses bid to prevent some from voting in election (01/27)
Gabe Galanda: The tide keeps turning against disenrollment (11/16)
Gabe Galanda: The growing chorus against disenrollments (11/13)
Gabriel Galanda: Banish drug dealers but don't disenroll them (09/08)
Nooksack Tribe disenrollment proceedings placed on hold again (07/14)
Indian attorneys take a stand and denounce tribal disenrollment (04/13)
Judge tells Nooksack Tribe to delay disenrollment proceedings (02/24)
Nooksack Tribe moves forward with disenrollment proceedings (02/10)
Gabe Galanda: The legal consequences of tribal disenrollments (2/3)
Gabe Galanda: Tribes are carrying out the wishes of the colonizer (01/16)
Gabe Galanda: Disenrollments are bankrupting our tribal nations (01/15)
Court tells Nooksack Tribe to stop disenrollment proceedings (06/13)
Nooksack Tribe attempts to resume disenrollment proceedings (6/4)
KUOW: Nooksack Tribe election shows divide on disenrollment (03/18)
Disenrollees of Nooksack Tribe to seek recount after election (3/17)
Opinion: Nooksack Tribe engages in deadly disenrollment trend (3/14)
Opinion: Nooksack Tribe's election affects disenrollment dispute (03/03)
Michelle Roberts: Open letter on Nooksack Tribe disenrollment (2/27)
Nooksack Tribe heads into election amid disenrollment dispute (2/18)
Court puts hold on disenrollments within Nooksack Tribe (01/23)
Michelle Roberts: Nooksack Tribe persecutes its own people (12/17)