A member of the Ute Tribal Business Committee says the governing body's ordinance suspending operations of the Tribal Court has been nullified by his own legal action.
Stewart Pike, the only one of the six-member committee who did not join in approving the ordinance on Wednesday, said he filed a request for an injunction and Chief Tribal Judge Norma Jean Gray granted it.The action is the latest in a series of conflicts between tribal members, the committee and the courts. Tribal members are moving to recall all committee members except Pike, while the committee itself has called for a federal investigation into virtually all the tribe's affairs.
Pike's injunction was intended to stop the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs from taking over the tribal courts, which the Business Committee earlier had asked it to do.
Pike said the injunction, filed at 3 p.m. Wednesday, superseded the committee's ordinance that became effective 90 minutes later.
Gray said the Tribal Court remained operable and planned to conduct business as usual Thursday.
Business Committee Chairman Lester Chapoose said the ordinance was necessary because the BIA accepted authority over the court after a review found a backlog of cases stretching over many years. He said that the appellate court never had heard a case, revealing what Chapoose described as "judicial tyranny."
Thirty tribal members deputized by Gray spent Wednesday night guarding the court building in shifts to prevent a takeover by BIA officials.
Pike said he also had summoned two FBI agents because he felt the tribe's right to have a court system was being violated, but he did not elaborate.
Pike said no confrontations occurred, and he said that if tribal members were ordered out of the building by federal authorities, he expected them to leave without incident.
Meantime, other Business Committee members contend they have the final word in tribal matters and the authority to turn tribal court operations over to the BIA.
"Tribal court may believe they are a separate power, but under the tribal constitution, there is no separation," said Maxine Natchees.
Pike said he also intended to seek a temporary injunction in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City against the Business Committee and the BIA.