Ethics in Tribal Court


Tribal Courts are classified as part of the courts in the US. If this is the case I often wonder how many tribal courts across the country are allowed to practice nepotism, favoritism and ignore basic rights afforded to US citizens. Due process is supposed to be about fair treatment and is a great tool to protect people who have been falsely accused of crimes.

Due process is not evaluated by the BIA or OJP for federal programs that fund tribal courts across the US. This creates problems for the normal tribal member  who often is subject to nepotism and discrimination in the workplace as well as lack of civil rights protections from the court. Tribal members have tried to “sue” for protection of basic rights but the Federal courts preserve the autonomous relationship with the chiefs and councils. Federal government officials rarely deal with any civil issues as those are sovereign rights of the tribes (chiefs and councils). The members are at the mercy of the tribal council and its Chief in term so enforcing the Indian Civil Rights Act.

Today another tribal member has been denied due process again.

On this reservation the court is run by the Chairman, which is the crux of the problem. Although his claim to fame is “he stays out of it”.This is an unethical statement. Today a member was in court and the public defender pointed out that reports were indicating that the “victim” may have been the person who created this crime due to personal biases about a death in the community. Coincidentally this “victim” is the Chairman’s nephew. Who is not cooperating with an on going investigation he started with accusations against a young person who he has been harassing and bullying online for months.

So why keep this person in jail with a high bond, if the evidence points to an investigation that should be done of the “victimized party” as well.

Due process needs a real check in Indian Country. Too many got to jail because basic civil rights are not given to tribal members in this court. If this is the case why would any agency fund this type of  unethical behavior.


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