- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) - The plaintiffs in a federal civil rights complaint against the Metlakatla Indian Community and its officials are seeking an audit of the community’s general election in November.

Jim Scudero and Michele Gunyah, who were both losing candidates in the election, filed their complaint April 1 in U.S. District Court in Ketchikan. The complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution, Indian Civil Rights Act and the community’s election ordinances during last year’s election.

In their motion filed Tuesday, Scudero and Gunyah are asking the federal court to order an election audit. They “believe that this audit will support or dismiss claims brought before this court listed in the complaint made by the plaintiffs and/or any additional findings the audit will uncover as a result.”

Scudero had lost the mayoral race to MIC Mayor Audrey Hudson, while Gunyah lost a bid for secretary to Judith Eaton. Their complaint comes after a challenge to the election was dismissed in Metlakatla Tribal Court on March 18.

An attorney for the Metlakatla Indian Community said in an email he could not comment on the case, citing pending litigation, The Ketchikan Daily News reported (https://bit.ly/1YuRQMr). An employee of the Metlakatla Council Chambers said that MIC officials had also been instructed not to comment.

Scudero and Gunyah also argue that sovereign immunity, an issue brought up in tribal court, “is not a persuasive legal principle in this case” and “is an abuse of this doctrine to settle cases brought against the tribal council by tribal citizens.”

Randal E. Steckel, chief judge for tribal courts in Washington state, served as the magistrate pro tempore in the tribal court case. In his decision, he found that Scudero and Gunyah “have raised no issues or law that would overcome sovereign immunity of the tribe.”

“Sovereign immunity acts as both a shield and a sword,” Steckel’s ruling states. “The defendants may use sovereign immunity to defend against suits, but this doctrine also acts as a sword that eviscerates any suit brought against them. This may seem fundamentally unfair to the plaintiffs in this action, but it remains the law of the United States.”


Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, https://www.ketchikandailynews.com

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