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Maine tribe wins key ruling on state jurisdiction

The Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians from Maine is not subject to state law, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals said a 1991 settlement act does not subject the tribe to state jurisdiction. Therefore, the state's attempt to investigate the tribe under state law appears to violate tribe's sovereignty, a three-judge panel.

"An Indian tribe that is unlawfully called to answer before a state agency may suffer both practical harms and intrusions upon its sovereignty," the court said.

The decision arose when three former employees of the tribe claimed they were wrongfully terminated under the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act. The state's Human Rights Commission later determined the tribe violated the law.

The appeals court did not reach the merits of that dispute. The case was sent back to a federal judge to determine whether the tribe should go before the commission.

Get the Story:
Micmacs' case sent to federal court (The Bandor Daily News 4/15)

Get the Decision:
Aroostook Band v. Maine (April 13, 2005)