Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Issues Four Year Sentence in DV Case


Russell McKinley Wolfe, 35, was convicted on Nov. 16, 2012, in the Cherokee Court for Domestic Violence Assault on a Female, Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order, Driving While Impaired, and Injuring Public Property. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment. The sentence, issued by the Honorable Kirk G. Saunooke, Cherokee Court Judge, was one of the longest sentences ever issued by the Cherokee Court and comes after the enactment of the Tribal Law and Order Act which authorized criminal sentences of greater than one year in tribal courts.

Since the sentence was handed down in Wolfe’s case, the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor, in conjunction with the Cherokee Court and Cherokee Police Department, worked together with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to authorize Wolfe’s sentence to be served in a Federal Detention Facility with the Bureau of Prisons.

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.

Washington State v. Cayenne — Wash. SCT Rules Against Treaty Fishing Rights of Convict

We’ve previously noted this case during the petitioning phase (here are the briefs favoring and opposing review by the Washington Supreme Court). The Washington Supreme Court now has reversed the lower court’s decision to recognize the treaty right of Indians convicted under state law to continue to exercise those treaty rights even after the conviction. Here are the materials:

Washington Supreme Court Materials





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