Northwest Arctic Region
Authored By: Alaska Legal Services
Map: Tim Argetsinger, et al., Making a Difference: How Northwest Alaska is Working to Reduce Youth Suicide, Northern Public Affairs (last visited Jul. 3, 2020) https://www.northernpublicaffairs.ca/index/volume-6-issue-3-the-fight-for-our-lives-preventing-suicide/making-a-difference-how-northwest-alaska-is-working-to-reduce-youth-suicide/
This Guide Will Explain:
- Due Process Rights in Tribal Court
- The Scope of Tribal Court Jurisdiction
- The Types of Cases in Maniilaq Tribal Courts
- How To Start a Case in Tribal Court
- What is Tribal Code and How Can You Access It
- Free or Low-Cost Legal Assistance Options
- How to Appeal (ask the Court to Reconsider) a Decision
- Enforcement of Tribal Orders in the State Court or Agencies
- Contact Information and Forms
- Due process means that the court must treat everyone fairly.
- The The Indian Civil Rights Act requires that all people receive due process.
- For tribal courts, that means you are entitled to three things:
- Notice-the court must tell you about the hearing so you can be present
- An Opportunity to Be Heard -the court must give you a chance to speak and to tell your side of the story
- A Fair and Impartial Hearing-the hearing must be held in a formal fashion with no conflicts of interest
- A conflict of interest is when an officer of the court, like the judge, has a personal interest in the case and might be biased or impartial.
- For more on what due process requires the court to provide you, please visit AVCP
- If you think you were denied notice, an opportunity to be heard or a fair and impartial hearing, you can contact an attorney.
- Jurisdiction means that the court has the ability to hear your case.
- If a tribal court has jurisdiction, then all state courts and state agencies must respect the decision of the tribal court.
- In Alaska, tribal courts have jurisdiction over tribal members when the issue involves matters related to internal governance of the tribe such as:
- Adoptions • Child Custody • Child Protection • ICWA Intervention • Marriages/Divorces • Probate/Inheritance • Cultural Protections • Domestic Violence • Assault/Disorderly Conduct • Juvenile Delinquency • Vandalism • Misuse of Firearm • Trespass • Drug and Alcohol Regulation
- Not all tribal courts will hear cases on all the matters listed above.
- For more information about jurisdiction, visit AVCP
- Tribal Courts may handle a wide range of civil matters:
- Child Welfare, Child Custody, Marriage/Divorce, Guardianship, Adoption
- This is not a full list; contact the court for more details.
- Whether a particular case meets the subject matter eligibility requirements is determined on a case-by-case basis. That means you must contact the tribal court and explain your case. The court will tell you if they can hear it.
- With regard to jurisdiction over the parties, it is most proper where one or more of the parties is a tribal citizen or at least eligible to enroll with the Tribe. However, even in cases wholly involving non-members, jurisdiction to handle the matter can come through either express or implied consent.
- Express consent is when one party says they accept tribal jurisdiction.
- Implied consent is when a party acts in a way that shows consent to tribal jurisdiction.
- Tribal court or council services are started by filing a petition with the tribal court clerk or tribal council administrator.
- Some tribes maintain websites that have links to the petition you can use to start a case.
- However, many tribes do not maintain websites.
- If that is the case, to obtain a petition, contact the tribal court or tribal government directly.
- A tribal court directory is found here
- If you cannot contact the tribal court or tribal government, the Maniilaq Association might be able to assist:
- Tribal codes are the written rules that make tribal law.
- Tribal courts follow their tribal code.
- It is important to familiarize yourself with tribal code, so you understand what you must prove or disprove to succeed in your tribal court case.
- If you wish to see the tribal code, ask the court clerk or point of contact.
- Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC)
- ALSC assists low-income clients who are facing critical civil legal issues. These issues include: consumer law, family law, housing problems, public benefits, healthcare complications, Alaska Native law, and other areas specific to veterans or the elderly.
- ALSC also offers free community legal clinics
- 1-888-478-2572. If you are unable to call, you can also fill out an application for ALSC’s Services.
- Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC)
- Supports individuals who have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused by a partner or are seeking assistance with a legal issue like divorce, separation, child custody, support or protective order.
- ANJC might be able to represent you or advise you on how to represent yourself.
- Phone: (907) 793-3550
- Alaska Network of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA)
- If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, ANDVSA offers free, confidentialassistance, including legal advocacy and court accompaniment.
- That means they may offer an advocate to assist you in tribal court.
- Disability Law Center
- The Disability Law Center may be able to assist you with legal representation, but they take cases on a case-by-case basis and according to what their resources allow.
- There is no application for legal assistance. They ask that you contact them directly at:
- 907-565-1002 (in Anchorage) or 1-800-478-1234 (Statewide)
- or Email email@example.com
If you are not happy with the outcome of your tribal court case, you may be entitled to an appeal. An appeal is when a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court.
The appeal process will be defined by tribal law (written or customary) or the tribal court’s code. This includes how to appeal, the process the court will use for the appeal, and what standards the court will apply. To find out how to appeal, you should contact the tribal court clerk. Some tribal courts have multiple levels of appellate courts.
The Native Village of Barrow Tribal Court has an appeal process. If you appeal your case, three judges will be selected who have not heard your case to sit on the appellate court.
For other tribal courts in the Arctic Slope region, you must contact the tribal court clerk directly to find out how to request an appeal.
- If you (or any party to the case) want the tribal court order to be followed by the state (for example: a new state birth certificate following a tribal name change order, or having an adoption recognized), you may petition the state court to "recognize" the order as a valid order to be followed, which some state agencies require before following tribal court orders.
- During the recognition process, the only things that the state court can consider are whether the tribal court had jurisdiction (authority over the people and subjects in dispute), and whether there was minimal due process (i.e., were all parties granted notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before an impartial tribunal). The person challenging the recognition of a tribal court order would have to show how the order did not meet these standards and the state court should defer to the tribal court absent clear proof.
- If a party does not think that the tribal court had jurisdiction or did not provide minimal due process, the party can request that the state not recognize the tribal court's order, but only after the party has used all appeal processes available through the tribal court.
- A state court or federal court is not an appellate court to a tribal court. A state court or federal court cannot overturn a tribal court order―it can only decide whether the state will or won’t recognize the tribal court order.
- Many forms and documents can be obtained by contacting the tribal council or court directly.
- Tribal court or council representatives can answer many questions about tribal court procedures.
- If a tribal court or council has a website, you may be able to access important documents there. If the tribal court does not have a website, call the court directly.
- A tribal court/council directory is found here
- If you cannot contact the tribal court or council, the Maniilaq Association might be able to assist:
- Phone: 1-800-478-3312 (within Alaska) or 907-442-3321
- Email: https://www.maniilaq.org/contact-us/