Band Seeks Dismissal of Counterclaim


A procedural hearing will be open to the public this Friday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m. in Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe vs. Mille Lacs County. Location: United States Courthouse in St. Paul, 316 North Robert Street, Room 7B. This hearing is being held to consider the Band’s motion seeking to dismiss the counterclaim in its entirety against all parties named in the counterclaim. If successful, that would remove the Band’s elected officials from the case (in both their official and personal capacities) and would remove Police Chief Sara Rice and Police Sergeant Derrick Naumann from the case in their personal capacities. The case would proceed on the basis of the Band’s complaint, with the plaintiffs being the Band as well as Chief Rice and Sergeant Naumann in their official capacities.

What this means: The Band sued the County for its failure to recognize our law enforcement officers. Tribal Police Chief Rice and Sergeant Naumann were named in our complaint against the County. The County then answered the complaint and is taking the position that the Reservation does not exist. The County has attempted to include all of the Band’s elected officials in the lawsuit by filing a counterclaim. It also wants to sue Chief Rice and Sergeant Naumann as individuals, not just as officers. The Band’s attorneys are attempting to have the counterclaim dismissed so that our elected officials will not be targeted in the lawsuit. The Band’s attorneys are also asking the court to not include our two police officers as individuals – but just have them in the lawsuit in their official capacities.

What the lawsuit is about: In its complaint, the Band asked the court to declare that, as a matter of federal law, the Band has inherent sovereign authority to establish a police department and to authorize Band police officers to investigate violations of federal, state and tribal law within the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation as established under its 1855 Treaty.

The complaint also seeks a declaration that under the Deputation Agreement between the Band and the Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as the Special Law Enforcement Commissions, the Band police officers have federal authority to investigate violations of federal law within the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation and to arrest suspects for violations of federal law. The Band’s complaint also requests that the Court stop the County from taking any actions that interfere with the authority of Band police officers.

What the Friday hearing is about: The hearing Friday is ONLY about dismissing the counterclaim. This is the beginning of a long series of motions, procedural hearings, and other hearings which will likely last for several months – and may last years. A lot of Band members might recall that our last lawsuit lasted more than eight years until the Band achieved victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999. The good news: We have the same lawyer, Marc Slonim, arguing for the Band.