Ais 102 American Indians and the U. S. Political System Fall 2004

Enforceability of Tribal Court Decisions

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Enforceability of Tribal Court Decisions

The U.S. Constitution contains a provision known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which states that:

Article 4, Section 1: Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each state

to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.

Indian tribes are not subject to the U.S. Constitution, so tribal governments are not subject to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. So how can a tribal court order be enforced off-reservation? There is a legal concept known as comity. Comity applies to foreign governments and refers to a court’s voluntary recognition of foreign court orders. For example, if you reside in California, but during a trip to Mexico, you injure someone who sues you, and the Mexican court awards $50,000 to the person you injured, this can be enforced against you in California. The person who has the judgment against you can ask California courts to recognize the judgment, which will allow for wage garnishments, etc.

Courts will not grant comity (will not recognize a foreign judgment, including tribal court judgments) unless there was a fair and impartial trial; the court had jurisdiction; a record was kept of the proceedings; and the parties had a chance to present their side.

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