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BIA finds big problems in Blackfeet courts

HELENA – Federal officials have threatened to cut off funding to the Blackfeet courts after finding unqualified and unvetted judges, prosecutors and staff running an unstable system that denies due process to those who appear before it and is overly influenced by tribal leaders.

A U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs review sent to tribal leaders Wednesday gave the court system failing marks in complying with its federal contract and identified 18 problems needing immediate action.

It also said the tribe needs to grant the judicial system greater independence from the ruling Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, which exerts significant influence that affects the courts’ ability to operate fairly and impartially. The tribal council can hire and fire judges and prosecutors at will.

Federal funds for the year will be withheld after July 1 until steps are taken to fix the problems, BIA Regional Director Darryl LaCounte said in a letter to tribal chairman Willie Sharp Jr. Read more.


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Cindy Hval
Cindy Hval is a freelance columnist for the Voices neighborhood sections. Her Front Porch column appears twice a month in the Thursday Voice.