Ho-Chunk Trial Court Issues Default Judgment against Former Nonmember Casino Employee

Here is the opinion in Ho-Chunk Nation v. Koenig.

The defendant, along with another former casino employee, incorrectly distributed over $1300 to a casino patron, and now owes HCN over $600.

Ho-Chunk Nation Trial Court Grants One and Denies One Petition to Access Gaming Per Cap Trust Fund

Here is the opinion granting a petition, In the Interest of Adult CTF Beneficiary: Joan M. Frank, DOB 03/27/1990 v. HCN Office of Tribal Enrollment, and here is the one denying a petition, In the Interest of Adult CTF Beneficiary: Tasha Hand, DOB 08/07/1988 v. HCN Office of Tribal Enrollment.

Ho-Chunk Trial Court Decides Defamation Claim under Tribal Customs and Traditions

Very interesting opinion (yet another from Judge Rockman) in Gardner v. Littlejohn.

An excerpt describing the question presented:

The Court must determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over this defamation action, and concludes that defamation existed under the customs and traditions of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  The Court finds that the plaintiff has shown that she was not terminated from her employment for an inability to administer third party billing, and thus did not seek to have said termination overturned due to nepotism.  Therefore, the Court finds that the April 14, 2010 document penned by the “Nioxawani Political Activists,” which was titled, Contract Employees: Shadowy Government,  defamed the plaintiff.

An excerpt describing the process of determining Ho-Chunk law:

Under the traditions and customs of the Ho-Chunk Nation, the plaintiff alleged that defamation would be a cause of action under the Ho-Chunk common law tradition of “woigixate,” which was recently enunciated within Supreme Court case law.  Compl.  at 2; Daniel Topping v. HCN Grievance Review Bd., SU 09-08 (HCN S. Ct., July 1, 2010) at 7 (“Woigixate  requires that all people be treated with respect and compassion and that no one should be treated badly or demeaned because of their situation”).  Consequently, Associate Trial Court Judge Amanda L. Rockman certified a question of law to the Traditional Court, inquiring whether Ho-Chunk “custom and tradition recognized defamation.” The Judicial Branch, acting through the Ho-Chunk Nation Traditional Court, may articulate binding law in the form of hocąk tradition and custom.

And the law itself:

The Traditional Court indicated that in the tradition and custom of the Ho-Chunk Nation defamation existed, meaning on occasion, individuals did publicly question the honor of another individual.  Nevertheless,  hocąk people generally spoke the truth.  If someone said something that was a lie or a false statement about another person, then that person typically ignored the lie that was said about them, knowing that it will come full circle back to the lying party.  In other instances, the person who uttered the lie or false statement would repeat it to that person face-to-face with tobacco, and the truth would reveal itself.

The presiding judge also questioned the role of a warrior and any privileges imposed upon warriors when publicly speaking.  The Traditional Court indicated that  a warrior maintained a privilege to speak his mind.  Ho-Chunk people have distinctive cultural values, and one such value is their proud warrior tradition.  Warriors  embody strength, honor, pride, and wisdom, and a warrior‟s success depends on the aforementioned embodiments.  Warriors return to their respective community with experiences that make them valued members of their society. Therefore, the Court relies on the above-referenced tradition and custom as the applicable law in this jurisdiction.

And defenses?

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HCN Trial Court Asserts Jurisdiction over Contract Breach Claim with Non-Indian Company

Very interesting case, captioned Ho-Chunk Nation v. Money Centers of America, Inc.

An excerpt:

The Court has jurisdiction over the plaintiff‟s breach of contract claim as it arises under the customs and traditions of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  The HCN Trial Court first dealt with contract claims in Ho-Chunk Nation v. Ross Olsen, CV 99-81 (HCN Tr. Ct., Sept. 18, 2000).  This case involved a dispute over a “Purchase Agreement” for cigarettes.   Id. at 1.  The Court determined that “neither the HCN CONSTITUTION, nor the laws, statutes, codes, or ordinances of the Ho-Chunk Nation addressed the rights and responsibilities concomitant with the formation of a contract.”  Id. at 13.  Former Chief Trial Court Judge Mark Butterfield consulted the Ho-Chunk Nation Traditional Court as to whether Ho-Chunk “custom and tradition recognized agreements analogous to the modern day „contract.‟”

The Traditional Court held that “in the tradition and custom of the Ho-Chunk Nation, agreements between parties for the exchange of goods or services were recognized as binding.”  Id.  Therefore, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over contract claims as they arise from custom and tradition.  The HCN Supreme Court has upheld and adopted this precedent, using the contract in question as the operative law for the Trial Court to apply.  See e.g., Marx Advertising Agency, Inc., v. Ho-Chunk Nation, SU 04-07 (HCN S. Ct., Apr. 29, 2005) (affirming the Trial Court‟s interpretation of a contract between the Ho-Chunk Nation and its advertising agency, Marx Advertising Agency, Inc.).