Lights and water have been restored to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Courthouse and court is back to normal operation following the suspension of two tribal judges early last week.
Chief Judge Brad Dakota was on annual leave last week following the tribal council meeting to have his and Judge Violet Ayres' suspension reviewed. Dakota says he thinks the situation was resolved the way it should have been, with the suspension lifted, but he maintains the suspension was never properly authorized in the first place. He says he hopes the constitution will be reviewed in the near future to have better separation of government branches.
"I think it's a learning experience where it's never been more apparent right now than it has ever been in the entire history of the court for our community to say that they want to change the law and create a separation of powers within the government," says Dakota.
His full official statement is as follows:
"I was away on vacation but I did come back to represent myself before the entire Tribal Council on Thursday morning last week. I am writing this letter to inform the community on what actually happened after what became a very confusing matter at the public Council meeting on Thursday August 14, 2014.
Bottom line. The lights are back on the Courthouse and we are back to administering justice. There never was a suspension. As I have been saying all along, one man does not have the authority to suspend an elected official from a separate branch of government. Even though a deceptive councilman named Edwards had a prepared resolution which included an acknowledgment of our suspension for a 5 day period, it was not supported by the entire council. Despite heavy handed leader Shalifoeâ??s obvious threat to me that he had an 8 to 4 vote to support his actions.
What else? There were several other items in the resolution like the dismissal of the law suit against councilman Edwards and President Shalifoe which in my opinion do not hold water. First, taking the resolution as a true and valid document, defendants in a law suit do not possess the authority to dismiss an action against them in any court. Only the Plaintiff and the Court have the ability or authority. Secondly, neither councilmember Edwards or President Shalifoe should have cast a vote on that resolution because they had a direct interest in the outcome. The case goes away. I liken that action to me being sued in my court and then refusing to recuse myself and then dismissing the case. Seems patently unfair to me. Even though I have stayed a mile away from this case, I have had to take the punishment from the people holding the â??checkbookâ??. I have done nothing other than be born with the wrong last name for this new administration. For a group that refers to themselves as the â??Forward moving councilâ?? it confuses me as to why they keep going further and further back in the history of the law to exert their way upon anyone who questions them. When the Tribal Council passed the Tribal Code in 1973 they envisioned three separate branches of government with equal authority. Now in 2014 the new administration says no thatâ??s not true. We, Eddie Edwards and Donald Shalifoe, two leaders on the tribal council executive board have all of the authority and if you donâ??t listen to us we will suspend you and turn your lights off. The real solution and answer to end these kinds of problems is to amend the constitution to say there is a separation of powers between the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches of government, with the judicial branch to possess the power of judicial review to determine the constitutionality of the laws enacted by the other two branches. Right now we are the third branch of government under Tribal law but we are actually treated like any other tribal program under the organization chart. This begs the question of whether or not the tribal council will provide the continued minimal funding to support our Healing to Wellness Court this next budget period or if they will hold it hostage because of me. I guess we will wait and see."