Guide to Tribal Courts

John Scott Swimmer

Written by

Native American Law Attorney

Contributor Level 14

Posted over 2 years ago. 1 helpful vote



How do you research tribal law and procedure?

The first challenge is determining what procedures apply in tribal court. First, do a search many tribes have their judicial codes and tribal laws on their websites. Also contact the court, some clerks will tell you the relevant law. Check the Nation Indian Law Library many tribes have submitted codes and constitutions: If none of the above are available most tribes have reported cases at the tribal courts that you can research. Sometimes a call to the tribal attorney will help.


How are tribal courts different?

Most tribal courts are less formal than state courts. The procedures are typically more straight forward, but often tribal courts have limited jurisdiction. For instance, they may not statutes providing for divorce or other types of cases. The best practice is to talk to attorney who appear frequently before the judge. You can call the clerk and get a list of attorneys admitted and phone numbers. Most will gladly talk to you.


What if a tribe does not have a tribal court

Many tribes have tribal courts, but many tribes do not. Often those tribes without court systems provide some kind of informal procedures for appeal of employment and other types of disputes. Many tribes provide for some type of arbitration or grievance process. You can always take the case before the tribal council or governing body and sometimes before a council of elders. All tribal courts are unique and you should always find an attorney experienced with that particular court.

Additional Resources

National Indian Law Library Federal Bar Association State Bar Associations

Rate this guide

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

27,087 answers this week

3,004 attorneys answering