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Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe ousts chief judge for misconduct

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. ? The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council fired its Chief Judge William H. Bossman for "gross misconduct" after he failed to consult the tribe before releasing a tribal member to state jurisdiction.

The tribal member, who was on parole from a state penitentiary after signing a parole agreement in August, was returned to state authorities without the consent of the tribe. The agreement waiving extradition allowed his return to the custody of state authorities in the event he violated parole.

The man was arrested on the Cheyenne River Reservation on three offenses in November including driving under the influence, eluding police and reckless driving.

Judge Bossman signed the order releasing the tribal offender to the state. He was held under a $500 cash bond which was later reduced to a personal recognizance bond.

The CRST council had scheduled a hearing for the judge's termination in late November, but the judge failed to appear for the hearing.

The hearing was rescheduled and Tribal Chairman Gregg Bourland directed the

tribe to run ads for the replacement of the judge.

Tribal Attorney Tom Van Norman said Bossman had notified authorities informally and the tribal member was returned to the state without the tribe's consent. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe requires consent before a tribal member is extradited.

During a debate in November, tribal councilmen voiced their concern about the impact of such agreements, saying the state forces tribal members to sign them without understanding the implications.

Tribal councilmen argued that extradition is a power exclusively reserved to the tribal council because it is a government to government issue. They said that no formal extradition proceedings took place.

Bourland, who was visibly angered by the judge's decision, said the parole agreement was invalid because an individual tribal member could not enter an agreement with the state that supersedes tribal law.

All extraditions must go through the tribal council, Van Norman said.

The tribal court is required by statute to notify the tribal council in writing of any request for extradition. The charges against the tribal member were in tribal court and should have been adjudicated on Cheyenne River before any other jurisdiction was involved, Bourland said.

"When you say this agreement with the state supersedes tribal law, then you say state law is more important than tribal law," Bourland said during the hearing.

"Tribal members need to be given every possible appeal before they are turned over to state jurisdiction. We take our jurisdiction seriously on

Cheyenne River," he said.

Two other judges have been removed including Judge Tyrone Takes the Knife, whose contract wasn't renewed, and Magistrate Gilbert LeBeau, who was suspended with pay.

The move by the tribal council to intervene in court matters may be in conflict with a mandate from tribal voters who called for the separation of powers under a 1992 referendum preventing the council from reviewing court tribal decisions. The council voted unanimously to dismiss the judge.

Meanwhile, Van Norman argued the council has a duty to protect its jurisdiction. He said errors in court raise the possibility of removal of a judge under a tribal ordinance.