Chatcolet Lake in Idaho. Photo: Idaho Tourism

Coeur d'Alene Tribe wins state court recognition of ruling against non-Indians

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is welcoming a new court decision that recognizes judgments from its judicial system.

By a unanimous vote, the Idaho Supreme Court on Friday said the tribe's judicial decisions are entitled to "recognition and enforcement" in the state system. Chairman Chief Allan hailed the 12-page ruling as a recognition of its sovereignty, The Spokesman-Review reported.

“This case sets a precedent that not only are appropriately decided tribal court opinions and judgments valid throughout the state, but that the property rights of the tribe must be respected,” Allan told the paper.

The ruling affects a non-Indian couple who refused to obtain permits for building a dock and pilings on land within reservation boundaries. They also refused to participate in tribal court proceedings, arguing that the tribe lacked jurisdiction over their activities.

The Idaho court concluded otherwise. Although tribes generally lack jurisdiction over non-Indians, an exception arises in situations where their conduct "threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe," according to a case from the U.S. Supreme Court known as Montana v US .

In this situation, since the Coeur d'Alene Tribe owns the bed of the St. Joe River, the Idaho court recognized its ability to exercise jurisdiction there.

Despite the overall win on jurisdiction, the Idaho court refused to recognize the tribe's fine of $17,400 against Kenneth and Donna Johnson. The fine is considered "penal" in nature and thus not entitled to recognition and enforcement in the state court system, the ruling read.

In 2001, the Supreme Court held that the tribe's reservation includes the southern third of Lake Coeur d'Alene, along with "submerged lands" within reservation boundaries. Those lands include the bed of the St. Joe River, which feeds into the lake.

Read More on the Story:
Idaho Supreme Court upholds CdA Tribe’s jurisdiction over St. Joe River docks (The Spokesman-Review November 6, 2017)
New precedent set for tribal court decisions in Idaho (The Associated Press November 6, 2017)

Idaho Supreme Court Decision:
Coeur d'Alene Tribe v. Johnson (November 3, 2017)