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Tribal court judges removed from office

Board cites financial mismanagement, disputed conviction
Thursday, October 25, 2018
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File photo by Andrew Turck

Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid (left) stands with Associate Judge Kari Covers Up at Crow Tribal Court in this early November 2017 file photo.

The Crow Tribe’s Legislative Branch has removed two judges from their positions in Crow Tribal Court after separate hearings dated Oct. 15. Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid and Associate Judge Kari Covers Up of the Judicial Branch each met with a board comprised of the Chief Executive Officer of the Crow Tribe, the Speaker of the Crow Tribal Legislature and the Chief Justice of the Crow Tribe – the Honorable Kenneth Pitt – who recused himself citing a conflict of interest.

As stated in court documents for Not Afraid’s case, “Petition alleges respondent has violated [the American Bar Association’s] Canon of Judicial Ethics 3C (1) and Crow Law and Order Code 3-3-303(2), based upon his treatment of the petitioner and upon his management of Crow Tribal Court’s financial systems.”

Evidence for the case includes the Crow Tribal Court FY17 BIA 638 Review Response, authored by Not Afraid and Court Administrator Ginger Goes Ahead, which states, “Contract loans were provided to tribal court staff… Each contract loan was documented, signed by the court administrator and clerk of court, and authorized by me.”

As reported by the Big Horn County News in August, the Crow Judicial Branch had suffered a loss of wages going back to February.

“Of the 12 Crow Tribal Court staff members for which the Judicial Branch budgeted for the 2018 fiscal year,” the article reads, “two full-time individuals were laid off.”

As reported in September, those lost wages to remaining employees were paid back in full after the Judicial Branch issued an arrest warrant for the chairman of the tribe.

Goes Ahead confirmed the court’s findings on Oct. 15, testifying that no policy or procedure authorized the temporary contract loans program.

A separate case found Associate Judge Covers Up guilty of violating Crow Law and Order Code 3-3-306(1), which states, “Any Crow tribal judge may be removed for cause, and cause for removal of a judge shall be limited to… conviction of any other offense.”

After stating that she had suffered prejudice due to insufficient time to prepare, the board proceeded with the hearing, citing, “the interest of the economy of the parties in the absence of demonstration of any prejudice to the respondent,” and determined that it would leave the record for the hearing open to protect the respondent’s ability to submit further evidence.

According to a sworn affidavit from Big Horn County Attorney Gerald “Jay” Harris, the deferred imposition of her sentencing from a previous case in July of this year, “does not constitute a conviction for the purposes of Montana statutory law.” This assessment stems from her sentencing in that case being deferred for the period of the probationary term set forth in the deferred imposition of the sentence.

Based on a ruling of the Montana Supreme Court, the board concluded, “that the respondent has a conviction of an offense enumerated in the laws of the state of Montana.”

In his statement, Harris outlined a conviction as a judgment or sentence entered upon a guilty plea, nolo contendere (nocontest) plea, upon a verdict, or finding of guilty rendered by a legally-constituted jury or by a court of competent jurisdiction authorized to try the case without a jury.

Neither Not Afraid nor Covers Up could be reached for comment.

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