NCAA Press Release on Fighting Sioux Settlement

From the NCAA website (H/T Indianz):

NCAA Statement on Settlement of University of North Dakota Mascot Lawsuit


Monday, November 19, 2007


Bob Williams

Managing Director of Public and Media Relations



INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA recognizes the University of North Dakota’s many programs and outreach services to the Native American community and surrounding areas.  The University of North Dakota is a national leader in offering educational programs to Native Americans.

The University has indicated that it intends to use the current name and logo with the utmost respect and dignity, and only for so long as it may do so with the support of the Native American community.  The NCAA does not dispute UND’s sincerity in this regard.

The NCAA believes, as a general proposition, that the use of Native American names and imagery can create a hostile or abusive environment in collegiate athletics.  However, the NCAA did not make any other findings about the environment on UND’s campus.  The NCAA also acknowledges that reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of Native American imagery in athletics.  The NCAA believes that the time has come to retire Native American imagery in college sports.

Judge in the UND v. NCAA Case Once Belonged to Fighting Sioux Pep Club

According to ” As a student at UND in the 1960s, Judge Lawrence Jahnke belonged to the all-male Golden Feather pep club. The group created the controversial “Sammy the Sioux” mascot that depicted an Indian in a cartoonish fashion. The group also chose the “Indian maiden” outfits worn by UND cheerleaders.”

The relevant section of the N.D. Code of Judicial Conduct (along with the official commentary) is here:

E. Disqualification.

(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:


Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, regardless whether any of the specific rules in Section 3E(1) apply. For example, if a judge were in the process of negotiating for employment with a law firm, the judge would be disqualified from any matters in which that law firm appeared, unless the disqualification was waived by the parties after disclosure by the judge.

A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for disqualification.

By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification. For example, a judge might be required to participate in judicial review of a judicial salary statute, or might be the only judge available in a matter requiring immediate judicial action, such as a hearing on probable cause or a temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge must disclose on the record the basis for possible disqualification and use reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable.

(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, or personal knowledge* of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings;

N.D. Code Judicial Conduct Canon 3.

Although Judge Jahnke denies it, it seems clear that his impartiality in this matter be reasonably questioned. His support of an even more offensive logo (Sammy), not to mention Indian maiden cheerleader uniforms, in his college days suggests that he would not find the current logo offensive. He has already exercised a great deal of discretion in granting a preliminary injunction in favor of UND. But to be fair, North Dakota is a small state. And, if my recollection is accurate, four of the five ND Sup. Ct. justices are UND grads. My guess is that a motion to recuse would be pointless. 

I’m still trying to figure out why the NCAA never asked to remove the case to federal court. I suppose that’s why I’m not a trial litigator.

More coverage from Indianz:

Get the Story:
Jahnke: Golden Feather membership not relevant (The Grand Forks Herald 10/25)
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Judge’s Sioux ties run deep (The Fargo Forum 10/24)
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Editorial: Judge errs in sealing Sioux files (The Fargo Forum 10/24)