2.10.10 St. Paul Island Tribal Court Structure.
The St. Paul Island Tribal Court is separate from the Tribal Council and the Tribal Executive Branch. A two-tier court structure is established including the Tribal Court of original jurisdiction (St. Paul Island Tribal Court), and Tribal Appellate Court.
(a) Number of Judges. There shall be a Tribal Court of original jurisdiction consisting of a Senior Judge and two Associate Judges. By resolution, the Tribal Council may increase the number of Associate Judges.
(b) Selection of Judges. All Judges of the Tribal Court of original jurisdiction shall be selected by appointment by a majority vote of the Tribal Council. A maximum of one of the total number of Judges may serve a concurrent term on both the Tribal Council and the St. Paul Island Tribal Court.
(c) Selection of the Senior Judge. A Senior Judge will be selected by the three Tribal Judges through a democratic process in December of each year. The Senior Judge will serve a one-year term beginning the 1st day of January and ending the 31st day of December. The Senior Judge may not serve as a Tribal Council member and Senior Judge concurrently.
(d) Terms of Office for Judges. Each Judge of the Tribal Court of original jurisdiction shall sit for an initial term of appointment of three years and shall be eligible for election to successive terms of three years each. The terms of office of the Judges shall be staggered to allow appointment or reappointment of one Judge each year by the Tribal Council. A person appointed to fill an existing vacancy created by death, resignation, or removal for cause of a Judge shall be appointed initially only for the unexpired portion of the term for which the appointment is made, subject to eligibility for reelection for the next term. The first term of the initial Judges of the Tribal Court shall commence on the date on which the code becomes effective, and those terms shall expire on the 31st day of December of the year in which the respective Judge’s term expires. The judicial term of appointment of a Judge shall normally be the 1st day of January through the 31st day of December of the term of the respective judicial appointment. If the number of Associate Judges is increased pursuant to Tribal Council resolution, to be effective on some date other than the commencement of judicial terms as prescribed by this code, the additional offices shall be filled by initial appointments, as though they were vacancies, for the period of time prior to the commencement of the next full judicial term.
(e) Qualifications for Appointment as a Judge.
(1) Any tribal member forty (40) years of age or older shall be eligible to serve as a Judge of the Tribal Court, except the following:
(i) The Court Clerk, Assistant Clerks and nonmembers of the Tribe.
(ii) Those who have been convicted by a court of the United States for a felony, as a felony is defined by the laws of that jurisdiction.
(2) The candidate judges shall be evaluated by the Tribal Council based on the candidates’ personal history, experience, understanding of traditional values, community service activities, and other factors.
(f) Compensation for Judges. The Tribal Judge positions are voluntary. A small hourly wage for time spent on specific case hearings may be established by Tribal Council resolution to partially compensate the Judge.
(g) Oath of Office. Each person, prior to assuming the office of Judge or Justice of the Tribal Court, shall take the following oath before the President or designated Tribal Council member of the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island:
I ____________________ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Constitution, Bylaws, and laws of the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island, and that I will faithfully and diligently perform the duties of (Senior Judge, Associate Judge, as applicable) of the St. Paul Island Tribal Court, to the utmost of my ability, with impartiality and without improper favor, to the end that justice may be fully served. Further, I do solemnly affirm that I will not discuss the proceedings of any case outside of the chambers of the Tribal Courtroom.
(h) Removal of a Tribal Judge from Office. A Tribal Judge may be removed from office by the three means cited below:
(1) Removal of a Tribal Judge from office for any reason may be made by a formal secret ballot of the Tribal Council by eighty-five percent (85%) of the Tribal Council members voting for removal (six of seven Tribal Council members).
(2) Removal of a Tribal Judge from office for cause may be made by a formal secret ballot of the Tribal Council by majority vote of the Tribal Council members. The term “for cause” is defined as:
(i) Gross violation of the conflict of interest provision of the Tribal Court Code of Ethics.
(ii) Gross violation of the Tribal Judicial oath of office.
(iii) Conviction of contempt of the Court in the St. Paul Island Tribal Court.
(iv) A violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics promulgated by the American Bar Association.
(v) Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude in a court of competent jurisdiction during the tenure of his or her appointment.
(vi) Excessive use of intoxicants.
(vii) Use of official position for personal gain.
(viii) Failure to perform judicial duties adequately.
(ix) Continued failure to perform the duties of office, whether from illness, disability, or otherwise.
(x) Other acts of moral turpitude that violate the Aleut Community values and traditions.
(3) A Tribal Judge may be removed from office by a recall petition of the enrolled members of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. Such petition shall consist of the signatures of thirty-five percent (35%) of the number of enrolled tribal member votes cast in the most recent general election. Upon the certification of such a petition by the Court Clerk, the matter shall be placed on the ballot for a vote by the enrolled tribal membership. Such election shall take place at the next regularly scheduled general election or at a special election to be held within six months of the date of certification of the petition, whichever comes first. If two-thirds of the enrolled tribal members vote for removal of the Judge, removal shall then be effective upon the date of certification of the election results.
(i) Rules Governing Removal of a Tribal Judge by Tribal Council Action.
(1) The Tribal Council by a majority vote at a meeting at which a quorum is present may direct that a Judge shall be suspended from duty for a period not to exceed twenty (20) days between the time charges are authorized and the date of the hearing for the charges. The Tribal Council may appoint a special Judge to assume the Judge’s duties pending the final decision by the Tribal Council on the charges.
(2) A Judge subject to charges shall be given at least a ten (10) day advance notice in writing of a hearing for the purpose of removal, and notice that he or she is entitled to have representation. The written notice shall include an itemization of the charges and grounds for removal which are to be considered. Such notice shall be served by registered or certified mail, or be delivered personally to the Judge. In the case of personal delivery of the charges, the Judge must acknowledge receipt of the aforementioned notice by his or her signature on a notice receipt form. A copy of said receipt form shall be provided to the Judge and the original shall be retained in the Tribal Court records.
(3) The Judge shall be given an opportunity to present witnesses and documentary evidence, to make oral and/or written argument on his or her behalf, to cross-examine all other witnesses at the hearing, and to be represented at his or her own expense.
(4) Removal shall be by an affirmative vote by secret ballot of the members of the Tribal Council, in accordance with Chapter 1.20 ATC as appropriate, present at a valid meeting called for the purpose of considering such removal, after a hearing. The decision by the Tribal Council to remove a Judge shall be final.
(j) Rules of Judges’ Conduct.
(1) Scope of Rules. The following rules shall govern all Judges of the St. Paul Island Tribal Court, including the Senior, Associate, visiting, and temporary Judges:
(i) Contacts Outside the Court.
(A) The Judges are allowed to discuss pending cases with the Tribal Council appointed Elder Court Advisor or Advisors.
(B) Except in open court, a Judge shall not discuss a case or any judicial business related to a case to which the Judge is assigned with a party in that case, a party’s representative, or any person who has an interest in the case, unless all parties are present.
(C) A Judge shall avoid informal contacts with police of any jurisdiction in which judicial business is discussed.
(D) A Judge shall not seek advice or opinions from all other persons (except the Elder Court Advisor) including Judges, Tribal Council members, and lawyers, regarding the merits of a particular case. A Judge may, however, discuss general principles affecting cases and hypothetical examples with other judges and lawyers.
(ii) Conflicts of Interest.
(A) Judges of the St. Paul Island Tribal Court shall remove themselves from hearing a case in which there is a real or perceived conflict of interest.
(B) A Judge should disqualify himself or herself from hearing a case in which a close relative is a party or witness.
(C) A Judge should disqualify himself or herself from hearing a case in which the Judge has interests which may be affected by the outcome, has formed an opinion about the merits of the case, or has personal knowledge of facts which would prevent him or her from considering all sides impartially.
(D) Judges shall remove themselves from any cases in which they have any significant, direct, personal, financial, or other interest.
(E) Judges shall remove themselves from hearing a case in which they cannot be fair for any reason.
(F) The declared conflict of interest of a Judge may be specifically waived by the party(s), witness(s) or representative(s) in a pending case.
(G) In the case of a real and immediate emergency, the Tribal Council President may appoint a temporary Judge for an interim period not to exceed ten (10) days without a ballot of the Tribal Council members.
(iii) Fairness and Diligence.
(A) A Judge shall respect and comply with tribal and federal law and always conduct himself or herself in such a way as to promote respect for the law of all jurisdictions.
(B) A Judge shall not let social relationships, his or her political or religious views, or criticism or praise influence the decisions he or she makes in court.
(C) A Judge shall be patient, courteous, careful, and conscientious in the performance of all official duties.
(D) A Judge shall maintain order in the courtroom.
(A) A Judge shall not engage in outside activity which would be inconsistent with the Tribal Court’s status as an independent government branch.
(B) A Judge shall not be swayed by public criticism or clamor regarding his or her official actions.
(C) A Judge shall make no public comment on matters pending before the court except in the course of official proceedings.
(k) Visiting Judges. The Senior Judge of the St. Paul Island Tribal Court may call on duly certified judges from other tribal courts to hear cases in situations where the St. Paul Island Tribal Judges have significant conflicts of interest, or when a case has extreme legal or other complications. When a visiting judge is used, there shall be an agreement in writing made as to the terms of any financial arrangements made, and that the visiting judge shall apply the laws of the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island to the fullest extent possible. The Judges’ rules of conduct and other appropriate sections of the code contained herein shall apply to the visiting judge. [2008 Code § 2.2.1; Res. 1999-17]