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9th Circuit: Federal court can enforce tribal court rulings

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Native American tribal courts can ask the federal courts to enforce rulings against non-tribal members.

Boise State Public Radio reports the ruling from the appellate court last week reversed an opinion from a federal judge in Idaho. The question arose in a case between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and a couple that live on the reservation but who aren’t tribal members.

Steve and Deanne Hawks built a boat garage on the St. Joe’s River, which the tribe says is tribe property. Tribal officials told the couple they needed a permit for the structure, but according to the lawsuit the Hawks never responded. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe sued in 2016 and a tribal court fined the Hawks nearly $4,000 and said the garage could be dismantled.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe then asked the U.S. District Court in Idaho to enforce the ruling, while the Hawks contended that the federal court didn’t have jurisdiction.

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