Tribal Courts all have individual codes to deal with everything from misdemeanors to adoptions. If you or anyone involved in your case is a member or eligible for membership in an Indian tribe there are certain advantages and disadvantages you need to discuss with someone that is knowledgeable. Wagner and Lynch has been in tribal court systems since its inception. We have appeared in all 5 of the major tribes’ courts, conducted jury and bench trials in tribal courts, and have handled hundreds of matters in tribal courts. Additionally, we are hired across the state for our expertise in tribal members rights in State court. This usually comes through the Indian Child Welfare Act(s). There are federal and state laws, codified to help prevent the breakup of the Indian family, that very few attorneys are proficient to handle. Wagner & Lynch is a law firm with top a tribal lawyer that is ready to help.
Indian Civil rights are not the same as your regular rights as a US citizen. Although there are some rights that carry over due to the Indian Civil Rights Act and its amendments , not all of them do. Additionally, there are some civil rights that are specific to the tribes and their constitutions that do not exist outside of the nation. Lastly, the place you have to go to enforce your civil rights might be different from tribe to tribe.
Tribal Jurisdiction: tribal courts have wide ranging authority in family law matters, civil matters, and criminal matters (link to criminal tribal stuff). Each tribe has a unique code and some have odd procedures. For instance the Choctaw nation only recently recognized same-sex marriage and at least one of the five primary tribes in the state still does not recognize same sex marriage Interestingly, the protections a tribal member enjoys in State court under the Indian Child Welfare Act are not applicable in tribal courts. ICWA only applies to actions in state court. You may not get a jury trial for termination, the tribe is not required to use active efforts to help you, and the burdens of proof to adjudicate your child(ren) deprived or terminate your rights might be lower. These things can all change in an instant, so it is important to have someone familiar with the law of the tribe.
The US Indian Child Welfare Act addresses specific requirements for people looking to breakup Indian families. There are several resources to help understand the act, like this one from the Bureau of Indian Affairs , but each ICWA case is different. The federal act has faced recent challenges in cases like the “Baby Girl Veronica” case where is was narrowed, and to affirmations like in the Brackeen case Whether you are an prospective adoptive placement or a parent looking to hold on to your parental rights, you need someone with knowledge of the current status of the ICWA. The Indian Child Welfare also greatly affects ones rights in juvenile deprived cases or termination of parental rights cases and guardianships. If anyone has Indian membership or potential eligibility for membership you need someone with experience to handle the issue(s).
To learn more about tribal law, click the link to one of our blog posts regarding the subject in greater detail.
In any of these types of cases it is literally critical that you contact an attorney with Tribal Law experience. The attorneys of Wagner and Lynch can ensure that your rights are protected.