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.”

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

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