SLAPP Lawsuits and the Tribal Court Exhaustion Doctrine

There’s an interesting exchange in a District of North Dakota case (Laducer v. DISH Network) involving an allegation that a non-Indian-owned business claim that a tribal court has no jurisdiction over it is actually a SLAPP lawsuit. A SLAPP lawsuit — strategic lawsuit against public participation — often is a frivolous countersuit by a corporate defendant against an individual plaintiff designed to bleed the plaintiff’s finances dry, effectively ending the original case. In this instance, it doesn’t appear that the facts support the claim.

But what if an Indian plaintiff brings a legitimate claim against a non-Indian in tribal court, and the defendant frivolously brings a federal court action to shut down the tribal court action? The non-Indian likely would not be subject to Rule 11 sanctions for filing a frivolous claim because the Supreme Court’s Montana jurisprudence is so negatively swayed against tribal jurisdiction that even easy cases are not easy (see the Water Wheel case). Any non-Indian defendant can bleed a tribal plaintiff dry.

Here are the materials:

Brian Laducer Motion to Dismiss

DISH Network Response

Brian Laducer Reply

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