- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

DEMING, Wash. (AP) - Leaders of the Nooksack Indian Tribe have disbarred an attorney who has been fighting to prevent the tribe from kicking out members whose lineage is in dispute, and now a tribal judge is reviewing whether he received due process.

Nooksack Judge Susan Alexander required the tribal council in northwest Washington to show what due process it afforded Gabriel Galanda in her March 7 order, The Seattle Times reported (https://goo.gl/OswHUU ).

Galanda said he did not receive notice or reasons for his disbarment, and is threatening to sue the tribe’s attorneys for defamation.

He calls the attack a “transparent ploy” to delay a tribal council election that had been scheduled for this week but is now indefinitely postponed.

The Nooksack tribal council passed a resolution Feb. 24 allowing it to bar attorneys from tribal court. It also passed a resolution disbarring Galanda and other attorneys in his law firm, Galanda Boardman, from tribal court and from engaging in business on tribal land.

The lawyers had been representing members facing tribal disenrollment, a group that calls itself the Nooksack 306. Galanda has become a nationally known opponent of tribal disenrollment, an increasing trend in recent years amid fights over money and power, The Times reported.

The tribe claimed in the resolution that Galanda, while serving as a pro tem judge at the Quinault Indian Nation in 2012 and 2013, had written an opinion on a case that had been sent back from the tribe’s court of appeals for further work, The Bellingham Herald (https://goo.gl/mq3bUC) reported.

The tribe also claimed in the resolution that he “has committed numerous other unethical acts before the Nooksack Tribal Court.”

Galanda said he has never been disciplined in any other court. He said he and his law partner would now be obligated to report they have been disbarred from the tribal court to the Washington State Bar Association and the Oregon State Bar.

One of two council members who voted against disbarment, Carmen Tageant, told The Times: “It seemed like a strategic tactic to get him out of the court system.”

When lawyers or other advocates are disciplined, “There’d be notice and an opportunity to be heard,” said Eric Eberhard, distinguished Indian law practitioner in residence at Seattle University. Eberhard called the Nooksack attempt at instant disbarment “extraordinary,” The Times reported.

Days after the resolution passed, tribal judge Alexander on Feb. 29 affirmed that the members of the Nooksack 306 could vote in tribal elections.

One of those facing disenrollment, Michelle Roberts, told The Herald they only learned through that judge’s ruling that their attorneys had been barred from tribal court. She says she filed motions with the court and scrambled to learn more.


Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com

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