Washington State AG Opinion on WA’s Obligation to Enforce Tribal PPOs


Dear Justices Owens and Madsen:

By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion on two questions that I paraphrase as follows:

1. Does Washington have an obligation to enforce protection orders issued by the courts of other states or by Indian tribal courts?

2. If Washington has such an obligation, is registration of a protection order in a Washington state court a prerequisite to enforcement?


1. Yes. Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 2265, requires that any protection order issued by the court of a state or Indian tribe be accorded full faith and credit and enforced by the court of another state or Indian tribe, if the protection order is consistent with 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b). The Washington Foreign Protection Order Full Faith and Credit Act, RCW 26.52, implements this requirement in Washington.

2. No. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2), a protection order issued by a state or Indian tribe must be accorded full faith and credit regardless of whether it is registered or filed in the court of the enforcing state or Indian tribe. Washington law permits protection orders to be filed without cost, but filing is not a prerequisite to enforcement. RCW 26.52.030.

Indian Country Complies with Child Support Requirements — California Possibly Only Exception

There has been much bad-mouthing of Indian country in the last week about the failure of some tribes to comply with child support requirements. Indianz’ first headline today is “Getting child support from Indian men almost ‘impossible.’

California, more likely than not, is an outlier (assuming these reports are true). Federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1738B (Child Support Orders Act), requires tribes and states to give full faith and credit to child support orders. But perhaps the problem in California is a lack of tribal courts — relatively few tribes there utilize a tribal judicial system.

Michigan tribes comply. One tribe in Michigan recently reported that it has disbursed over $1.5 million to state courts in accordance with the child support law. Another tribe (the Grand Traverse Band) requires per capita gaming payments to be used to satisfy child support obligations first (18 GTB Code § 1609), a fairly typical provision for gaming tribes with RAOs. My suspicion is that the vast majority of tribes around the country comply — there are perhaps as many as 300 tribes with a functioning court system out there.

California tribes should get on board. These news items make all of Indian country look bad.

Alaska Supreme Court Recognizes Inherent Authority of Native Village of Tanana’s Tribal Court in ICWA Matters

Here is the opinion in Alaska v. Native Village of Tanana.

And the materials:

Alaska Opening Brief

Tanana Brief

Alaska Reply Brief

New Paper on Federal and State Court Recognition of Tribal Court Convictions

My new paper, “Sovereign Comity: Factors in Recognizing Tribal Court Convictions in State and Federal Courts,” forthcoming in Court Review is available for download on SSRN here.

Here is the abstract:

State and federal courts increasingly are being confronted with prosecutors moving the court to consider prior convictions in American Indian tribal courts during the sentencing phase, and sometimes earlier. If the conviction being introduced occurred in state or federal court, the instant court would be obligated to give full faith and credit to that conviction. But if the prior conviction occurred in a tribal court, state and federal courts are often confronted with unforeseen complexities. This paper is intended to parse through much of the political baggage associated with recognizing tribal court convictions. To be frank, the law is unsettled, leaving little guidance for state and federal judges in these cases, while at the same time granting enormous discretion to judges on the questions involved. The first part of this paper will provide a quick overview of the constitutional status of Indian tribes and tribal courts, as well providing a basic but sufficient introduction to relevant principles of federal Indian law. The second part will offer a summary of criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country and, in particular, what role tribes play – and how well they play it. The third part offers a short description of the key cases in the field, as well as relevant federal and state statutes, and state court rules. It also offers a short normative argument on the question of what state and federal court judges who are confronted with prior tribal court convictions should look for in these cases, especially where the defendants convicted in tribal court are not represented by counsel.

Ninth Circuit Requires Alaska Courts to Provide Full Faith and Credit to Native Villages’ ICWA Judgments

Here is the opinion in Kaltag Tribal Council v. Jackson, unpublished. This is one the cases highlighted by NARF lawyers in their opposition to Sarah Palin (here). An excerpt:

Plaintiffs-Appellees Kaltag Tribal Council (“Kaltag”), Selina Sam and Hudson Sam (collectively, “Kaltag plaintiffs”) filed this case in district court against Karleen Jackson, Bill Hogan, and Phillip Mitchell, employees of the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Human Services. The Kaltag plaintiffs alleged that an adoption judgment issued by the Kaltag court is entitled to full faith and credit under § 1911(d) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”), and that the Alaska employees were required to grant the request for a new birth certificate. The district court granted the Kaltag plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and denied the Alaska employees’ summary judgment motion. The Alaska employees appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.