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The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Native Americans prosecuted in certain tribal courts can also be prosecuted based on the same incident in federal court, which can result in longer sentences.

The 6-3 ruling is in keeping with an earlier ruling from the 1970s that said the same about a more widely used type of tribal court.

The case before the justices involved a Navajo Nation member, Merle Denezpi, accused of rape. He served nearly five months in jail after being charged with assault and battery in what is called a Court of Indian Offenses, a court that deals exclusively with alleged Native American offenders.

Under federal law Courts of Indian Offenses can only impose sentences of generally up to a year. The man was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He said the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy” clause should have barred the second prosecution.

But the justices disagreed.

“Denezpi’s single act led to separate prosecutions for violations of a tribal ordinance and a federal statute. Because the Tribe and the Federal Government are distinct sovereigns, those” offenses are not the same, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for a majority of the court. “Denezpi’s second prosecution therefore did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The Biden administration had argued for that result as had several states, which said barring federal prosecutions in similar cases could allow defendants to escape harsh sentences.

The case before the justices involves a tribal court system that has become increasingly rare over the last century. Courts of Indian Offenses were created in the late 1800s during a period when the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans was to encourage assimilation. Prosecutors are federal officers answerable to federal authorities, not tribal authorities.

Federal policy toward Native Americans shifted in the mid-1930s, however, to emphasize a greater respect for tribes’ native ways. As part of that, the government has encouraged tribes to create their own tribal courts, and the number of Courts of Indian Offenses has steadily decreased. Today there are five regional Courts of Indian Offenses that serve 16 tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They are generally tribes with a small number of members or limited resources. Nationwide there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes.

The court said in 1978 that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the federal government from prosecuting a Native person in federal court after a tribal court prosecution, so the only question for the court this time was whether the rule should be different for Courts of Indian Offenses.

In July 2017, Denezpi traveled with a female member of the Navajo Nation to Towaoc, Colorado, which is a part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. While there, Denezpi raped the woman.

Denezpi was first charged in a Court of Indian Offenses with assault and battery, among other things. He eventually agreed to a so-called Alford plea in the case, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence that he would likely be convicted at trial. He was sentenced to time served, 140 days in jail. His prosecution in federal court followed.


A Wisconsin judge's decision to become Facebook friends with a woman whose child custody case he was hearing created at least the appearance of bias, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday in ordering the case to be re-heard by another judge.

The case, which is the first of its kind in the state, contemplates whether judges' use of social media can compromise them. In its ruling, the 3rd District Court of Appeals didn't lay out any bright-line rules for judges, but it warned them to use caution when engaging with people online to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"We caution that judges should recognize that online interactions, like real-world interactions, must be treated with a degree of care," appellate Judge Mark Seidl wrote in the ruling.

According to court documents, Angela Carroll filed a motion in Barron County in 2016 to adjust a custody arrangement she had reached with her son's father, Timothy Miller. She demanded sole legal custody, primary placement of the boy and an order forcing Miller to pay child support. She argued Miller had abused her, an accusation Miller denied.

The case landed with Judge Michael Bitney. Three days after Carroll and Miller submitted their final written arguments in 2017, Bitney accepted a Facebook friend request from Carroll.

She proceeded to like 18 of the judge's posts and commented on two of them. None of the posts were directly related to the pending custody case. Bitney didn't like or comment on any of Carroll's posts and didn't reply to her comments. He didn't deny reading them, however.

Carroll also shared one third-party photograph related to domestic violence. Nothing suggests the judge ever saw it, but the post could have appeared on his newsfeed, according to the documents.


Rwanda’s high court on Thursday acquitted the country’s most prominent opposition figure of all charges related to her election challenge of President Paul Kagame, as judges said the prosecution failed to provide proof of insurrection and forgery.

Diane Rwigara’s case has drawn global attention as Kagame again faces pressure to give more space to critics in this highly controlled East African country.

Rwigara’s mother, Adeline, 59, also was acquitted of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism. Both women had denied the charges.

The courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing for protection swarmed them with hugs.

The 37-year-old Rwigara, who had denounced the charges as politically motivated, had faced 22 years in prison if convicted. She was arrested after trying to run in last year’s election, and is the rare person to publicly criticize the government from inside the country.

“I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans,” a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating. “This is the beginning, because there’s still a lot that needs to be done in our country.”

She said she will move ahead with her People Salvation Movement, an activist group launched shortly before her arrest to encourage Rwandans to hold their government accountable. And she thanked everyone who pressured the government to free her.

U.S. senators in recent days urged Rwanda’s government to drop the charges against her, with Sen. Dick Durbin noting “what appears to be highly questionable charges against Rwigara for seemingly running for office peacefully.”



Court ruled Wednesday that bobsledder Alexander Zubkov, who carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Games, should still be considered an Olympic champion despite having been stripped of his medals because of doping. A CAS ruling upholding his disqualification is not enforceable in Russia, the court said.

CAS, however, is the only valid arbiter for sports disputes at the games, according to the Olympic Charter. In rare instances, Switzerland's supreme court can weigh in on matters of procedure.

"The CAS decision in this case is enforceable since there was no appeal filed with the Swiss Federal Tribunal within the period stipulated," the IOC told The Associated Press in an email on Thursday. "The IOC will soon request the medals to be returned."

The law firm representing Zubkov said the Moscow court found the CAS ruling violated Zubkov's "constitutional rights" by placing too much of a burden on him to disprove the allegations against him.

Zubkov won the two-man and four-man bobsled events at the Sochi Olympics but he was disqualified by the IOC last year. The verdict was later upheld by CAS.

Zubkov and his teams remain disqualified in official Olympic results, but the Moscow ruling could make it harder for the IOC to get his medals back.

"The decision issued by the Moscow court does not affect in any way the CAS award rendered ... an award which has never been challenged before the proper authority," CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb told the AP.

"The fact that the CAS award is considered as 'not applicable in Russia' by the Moscow court may have local consequences but does not constitute a threat for the CAS jurisdiction globally."

The IOC's case against Zubkov was based on testimony from Moscow and Sochi anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who said he swapped clean samples for ones from doped athletes, and forensic evidence that the allegedly fake sample stored in Zubkov's name contained more salt than could be possible in urine from a healthy human.

Zubkov, who says he never doped, retired after the Sochi Olympics and has since become president of the Russian Bobsled Federation. The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation didn't respond to a request to comment.

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