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'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law

Bonnie Schucha, 'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law, 106 Law Library Journal 199 (2014).

This article explores the costs and benefits of publishing tribal law. Part I analyzes why tribal law is not more widely available; part II illustrates the benefits of making tribal law more accessible, and part III describes publication options for tribes. An appendix lists currently available tribal law collections.

Tribal Court Caselaw

Tribal Court Caselaw (2021) is a video tutorial provided by the University of Washington's Gallagher Law Library. The video discusses the challenges of locating case law issued by tribal courts and suggests sources for searching for case authority.




Select Sources of Tribal Case Law

Select Tribal Court Webpages

Cherokee Nation Judicial Branch - Links from the landing page provide access to District Court forms,dockets (and pleadings), Supreme Court documents and case opinions; however, there is not an index or keyword search feature available for the opinions. Court Rules are also accessible. A searchable PDF of the Cherokee Nation Constitution and Cherokee Nation Code Annotated is available. A link to the Cherokee Law Database provides an ability to search Tribal Council and Tribal Boards and Commissions actions through the Cherokee Legislative Research Center.

Chickasaw Nation Courts - Links from the Courts Page provide access to the Tribal Constitution and searchable Tribal Code. However, Tribal Court opinions are not available. The District Court page also contains a link to the District Court Rules.

The Choctaw Nation's Government Tab provides links to Tribal Council Meetings and Bills information as well as Judicial Branch information. From the Judicial Branch webpage, resources regarding Tribal Courts (including contact information) and Tribal Forms may be accessed. Tribal Codes are also linked from the Judicial Branch webpage and are accessible in a searchable PDF format.

The Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma Tribal Courts webpage provides a link to Applications/Fees/Forms/Ordinances.Following the link will lead you to additional links to the Tribal Rules of Evidence and Rules of Civil Procedure as well as to other codes and ordinances. A careful examination also reveals form such as a Petition for Adult Guardianship, Petition for Protective Order, and Petition for Divorce. However, no Tribal Court opinions are currently available on the Tribe's website.

Muskogee Creek Nation Supreme Court - Links from the landing page provide access to the Tribal Constitution, Code, and Supreme Court Opinions issued since 2009. However, no central search function is available and documents are posted as PDF files.

The Osage Nation's "Who We Are" Tab provides access to the Osage Attorney General information, including AG opinions in a PDF format; however, a search function for the AG opinions is not available. Similarly, the tab links to Osage Judicial Branch information. The Judicial Branch page provides access to Administrative Orders and Court Rules. Links from the Judicial Branch to the Supreme Court and Trial Court are also provided. Audio recordings of some oral arguments are included on the Supreme Court page. Osage Supreme Court Opinion are also available in a PDF format; however, there is no search functionality. The Trial Court does include a link entitled "Case Information" but this is not recent case information but currently links to statistical caseload information in 2012 & 2013. 

In the right navigation column of the Sac and Fox Nation's website, the Government Category links to the Sac and Fox Constitution and  the Tribal Code of Laws. While there is a link for the Judicial Branch, the information provided does not include court rules, forms, opinions or dockets.

Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Courts - Provides links to tribal court forms and instructions for pro se litigants. Does not provide access to  Tribal Court Opinions. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Landing Page (under the Government Tab) does provide link to Tribal Constitution and Code.

Web Pages