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Judge throws out Meskwaki counsel

ST. LOUIS - Attorneys representing an appointed tribal council in a leadership dispute have been disqualified from proceedings.

Steven Olson, Brad Jolly and other attorneys for the Bluedog, Olson and Small law firm of Bloomington, Minn., have been representing a group of Meskwaki tribal members led by Homer Bear Jr. in their attempts to be recognized as legitimate leadership of the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa. The law firm had previously been employed by the tribal council, led by Alex Walker Jr., ousted by the Bear council last spring - first by force, then by popular election.

In May, as part of a larger battle over control of tribal operations and management of the Meskwaki Bingo and Casino near Tama, Iowa, the Walker party asked a judge to bar Bluedog from representing the Bear party.

On Sept. 19, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals judges granted their request, citing an Iowa rule that declares attorneys shouldn't represent clients in a case against previous clients if it relates to work they've done for the other party.

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The Bear party is expected to appeal the decision.

In March, Meskwaki tribal members voted no confidence in an elected tribal council chaired by Walker, after the council refused to honor recall petitions. Hereditary Chief Charles Old Bear appointed a new council, led by Bear, which occupied the tribal center and took over government operations. Tribal members again tried to legitimize the appointed council in a May 22 special election, but the BIA, NIGC, and state of Iowa all continue to recognize the Walker council as official Meskwaki leadership.

A recall election has been scheduled for Oct. 21.

About 480 of the 1,300 enrolled Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa members live on the settlement, three miles west of Tama, Iowa. Since 1992, the tribe has operated one of the largest casino gaming businesses in the state, the Meskwaki Bingo, Casino and Hotel.

U.S. marshals closed the Meskwaki casino on May 23, enforcing an order from the National Indian Gaming Commission. The move put more than 1,000 people out of work, and has cost the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa an estimated $3 million a week in revenue.