Nooksack Tribe slammed by judge for disbarring lawyer and firm

Attorney Gabe Galanda discusses disenrollment in Indian Country. Photo from Facebook

The Nooksack Tribe of Washington trampled on the basic rights of a prominent Indian attorney and his law firm by disbarring them, a judge said on Monday.

Gabe Galanda and the Galanda Broadman are representing the Nooksack 306, a group of 306 people who are facing disenrollment, in tribal court. All were shocked when a majority of the tribal council voted to disbar the firm, thus depriving the group of a strong advocate.

But when Judge Susan Alexander asked the council to explain whether Galanda, who is a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and the firm were afforded due process, she said the council did not directly respond to her question. Instead the tribe argued that the protections of the Indian Civil Rights Act only apply to its citizens and not to anyone else.

"Defendants' failure to submit an affidavit can lead to only one conclusion: Galanda Broadman was not afforded due process of any kind," Alexander wrote in a 14-page decision.

Because the tribal council is "plainly biased" against the attorneys and the Nooksack 306, Alexander said Michelle Roberts, a former council member who is among those facing removal from the rolls, can seek documents related to the dispute. She ordered the council to provide copies of resolutions and other information that it was refusing to provide.

"As emphasized on previous occasions, at hearings and in orders, the court does not know or judge whether plaintiffs are eligible for enrollment and has jurisdiction to do so," Alexander wrote. "The court is on neither 'side' here. But the tactics being employed by defendants are surely confounding."

Alexander said it is up to Galanda and his firm to determine whether to challenge their disbarment. The attorneys could face repercussions in other courts.

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Judge rules ‘biased’ tribal council denied disbarred lawyer due process (The Seattle Times 3/22)

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