Indian Courts and Fundamental Fairness: Indian Courts and the Future Revisited

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This paper comes out of the University of Colorado Law Review's symposium issue honoring the late Dean David H. Getches. It begins with Dean Getches’ framework for analyzing Indian courts. I revisit Indian Courts and the Future, the 1978 report drafted by Dean Getches, and the historic context of the report. I compare the 1978 findings to the current state of Indian courts in America. The paper focuses on the ability of Indian courts to successfully guarantee fundamental fairness in the form of due process and the equal protection of the law for individuals under tribal government authority is uniquely tied to the legal infrastructure available to the courts. Congress tried to provide the basic framework in the Indian Civil Rights Act, and many of the most successful tribal justice systems have borrowed from ICRA or developed their own indigenous structure to guarantee due process and equal protection. I argue that ICRA is declining in importance as Indian tribes domesticate federal constitutional guarantees by adopting their own structures to guarantee fundamental fairness.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.