Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals to Hear Two Oral Arguments at UND School of Law on September 23

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News Article

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School of Law


The Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals will hear two oral arguments at the University of North Dakota School of Law on Friday, September 23, 2011. Both oral arguments are free and open to the public and will be held in the Baker Courtroom on the third floor of the UND School of Law.

11:15 a.m Oral Argument – Davis v. Poitra and Malatarre v. Belcourt School District - involving the issue of whether the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court can exercise jurisdiction over a suit brought by a Turtle Mountain member against a state grant school located on the reservation for violation of Indian-preference in employment ordinances enacted by the Tribe.

1:15 p.m. Oral Argument – Baukol Builders v. Davis Masonry - involves the issue of whether the Tribal Court erred in granting a default judgment to an Indian contractor against a non-Indian for work performed on the Turtle Mountain reservation. This case also involves the issue of tribal civil jurisdiction.

The Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals is the highest appellate court of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians located in Belcourt, North Dakota. It exercises appellate jurisdiction over all disputes except attorney grievance disputes which come directly to the Court from the Turtle Mountain Judicial Board, which has the authority to license and regulate attorneys on the reservation. It has the option of hearing cases de novo or by reviewing the lower court's decision and record prior to rendering its decisions.

The Chief Justice of the Court must be a licensed attorney in North Dakota while the Associate Justices need not be attorneys. The Court presently consists of Chief Justice BJ Jones , who has been the Chief Justice since 1997 except for a two-year period from 2004-2006, Associate Justice Michael T. Swallow, who also serves as the Chief Justice of the Oglala Sioux Supreme Court as well as Associate Chief Judge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court and who also has been on the Court from 1997-2004 and from 2008 to present, and Associate Justice Keith Richotte , who is also a law professor at UND School of Law. Justice Richotte is the only Turtle Mountain tribal member Justice and has been on the Court since 2008. The Justices serve six-year terms and are appointed by the Tribal Council. The only requirement to be a Justice is for the Chief Justice who must be a North Dakota licensed attorney. The Clerk of the Court of Appeals is also the Chief Clerk of the Tribal Court, Jolene Gladue House. She is an elected official having most recently been elected in 2010 for a four-year term and charged with the administration of both the trial court and the appellate court.

The court will be holding its regular quarterly session during its visit to the UND School of Law, and will be reviewing approximately 20 cases in addition to hearing the two oral arguments. The Turtle Mountain Tribal Court is a court of general jurisdiction exercising both criminal and civil jurisdiction. The Court handles approximately 100 appeals per year ranging from family law disputes to personal injury disputes, with a high number of the Court's cases pertaining to its jurisdiction, especially in the civil arena.