In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal calls the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 "a little-known quirk in federal law" that doesn't require defendants in tribal court to provided with attorneys.
The right to legal counsel is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. But since tribes are separate sovereigns, the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to their governments.
That hasn't stopped the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O'odham Nation, both of Arizona, from starting their own defense attorney program. But a lack of adequate resources means everyone doesn't always get a lawyer in tribal court.
"I beg defense lawyers," Nick Fontana, the director of the defense advocate office for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, tells the Journal. "But some of them have caller ID and they're avoiding taking my calls now."
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Native Americans on Trial Often Go Without Counsel
(The Wall Street Journal 2/1)
Tribal Court Clearinghouse - http://www.tribal-institute.org