ADA -- Ribbon cutting ceremonies for the Chickasaw Nation District Court Tuesday, April 13 at 1500 Country Club Rd. marked a major milestone in the resurgence of the tribal government.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby noted that his ancestor, Atchison Anoatubby, had served as a district court judge for the tribe before the drive toward statehood nearly eliminated tribal government.
"If we look to history we find that we're rising out of the ashes. There was an attempt to totally do away with the Chickasaw government," said Governor Anoatubby. "Not only the district court and the court system, but the Chickasaw legislature and the Chickasaw executive department.
"And at the time, it looked like it was working. It hasn't. The law that was intended to do away with the Chickasaw Nation government, didn't work. So, we're back."
While the tribe's executive and legislative branches have become increasingly active and successful since the current Chickasaw Constitution was drafted in 1983, the judicial branch has been limited to a Chickasaw Supreme Court designed to settle disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Prior to the development of the Chickasaw Nation District court, which began hearing cases January 2 of this year, cases where the tribe had jurisdiction were referred to the court of Indian offenses, more commonly called CFR court.
A number of attorneys spent several years writing legislation to establish the district court.
While it was first thought the district court would initially hear only family law cases, they have taken over every kind of case previously under the jurisdiction of the CFR Court of Indian Offenses.
Since the opening of the court, 92 new cases have been filed and 900 cases have been transferred from the BIA CFR court.
Aaron Duck is judge for the district court.
"Up until October 2003, it was still my thinking that we were going to hear primarily divorce cases inside the tribe," said judge Duck. 'About that time we learned that if we were going to take over any jurisdiction, we were going to take over all of it.
"We had about three months preparation to get ready to take over all areas of court. When you go from hearing divorces to hearing all cases, that's a pretty daunting task. But everything has run very smoothly. We accepted the challenge. Our staff has done a good job."
Area attorney David Smith, who has been involved in a number of cases before the court, said that he is very impressed by the court and Judge Duck, who has "done an excellent job handling some very difficult cases."
Source - Chickasaw Nation Press Release