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Published September 06, 2013, 08:43 AM

North Dakota tribe wants chairman dispute lawsuit dismissed

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The Spirit Lake Tribal Council has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought last month by Roger Yankton Sr., who is trying to regain his position as chairman of the North Dakota tribe.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The Spirit Lake Tribal Council has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought last month by Roger Yankton Sr., who is trying to regain his position as chairman of the North Dakota tribe.

The Tribal Council argues that the tribe is sovereign and U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction in the matter. The council also says Yankton hasn't exhausted all tribal remedies and that he doesn't have a case anyway, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Yankton and Leander "Russ" McDonald have been embroiled in a summer-long dispute over who is the tribe's rightful leader. Tribal members in July voted to remove Yankton, who some say is corrupt, intimidating and a bad leader.

McDonald, a vice president at the tribal college in Fort Totten, was sworn in as chairman, sparking the legal dispute that has involved a tribal judge issuing a restraining order against Yankton to keep him away from the tribal offices, council members and McDonald.

Yankton's federal lawsuit claims that the order issued without a hearing is improper, prevents him from acting as chairman and amounts to an "illegal detention" that violates his civil rights. He calls himself "a virtual prisoner on the reservation."

Yankton and the council also disagree on whether the tribe is a member of the Northern Plains Intertribal Appeals Court.

The appeals court had scheduled oral arguments Aug. 30 at the University of North Dakota law school in Grand Forks on who should be recognized as chairman, but that plan was scrapped apparently over the availability of parking for the court and members of the tribe who might wish to observe the proceedings. Officials have not announced another time and location.

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