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Forum News Service, Published September 05 2013

Spirit Lake Tribal Council members seek dismissal of Yankton suit

GRAND FORKS - Members of the Spirit Lake Tribal Council have asked a federal court to throw out a lawsuit brought last month by Roger Yankton Sr., who seeks to regain his position as chairman of the tribe.

In a motion to dismiss filed this week in U.S. District Court in Grand Forks, they argue that tribal sovereignty “precludes the exercise of … jurisdiction (by the court) over the named defendants.”

They also note that Yankton “has failed to exhaust tribal remedies” or “state a cause of action for which relief can be granted.”

In his lawsuit, filed Aug. 12, Yankton argues that a restraining order issued against him by a Spirit Lake tribal judge was obtained improperly, prevents him from acting as chairman and amounts to an “illegal detention” that violates his civil rights.

He says the restraining order, which bars him from entering the tribal headquarters or contacting members of the council, makes him “a virtual prisoner on the reservation.”

Yankton named as defendants five other members of the Tribal Council, including Leander “Russ” McDonald, who twice this summer was declared chairman in Yankton’s stead.