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Attorneys for the U.S. government are asking a judge to toss a lawsuit by the former chief judge and court administrator for the Crow Tribe after the two were terminated from their jobs.

In September, former Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid and former Court Administrator Ginger Goes Ahead sued the federal government and two Bureau of Indian Affairs employees, claiming a flawed contract audit led to their ouster.

In December, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Victoria Francis and Tyson Lies filed a motion asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

The lawsuit fails to meet several legal standards necessary to claim damages, the government said.

The lawsuit takes issue with an audit by the BIA of a contract that provided funding for the Crow Tribal Courts. BIA employees Louise Zokan-Delos Reyes and Jo-Ellen Cree conducted the audit in December 2017 and are named as defendants in the lawsuit. 

Findings from the audit later provided the basis for Not Afraid’s termination. After a complaint to the Judicial Ethics Board, the board recommended Not Afraid’s removal, citing an audit finding that Not Afraid at one point approved loans to employees without the authority to do so.

Not Afraid said he was ensuring his employees could pay their bills when their official paychecks failed to clear. But Crow Chairman A.J. Not Afraid said the tribe “had a strict ‘no loans’ policy, and that the Tribal Court should not have made loans to Court employees,” according to the recent filing by the U.S. government.

The audited contract was entered into by the Crow Tribe of Indians and the Secretary of the Interior. The plaintiffs were neither signatories nor beneficiaries of the contract, the government notes.

In their lawsuit, Not Afraid and Goes Ahead characterized the audit report and a corrective action plan that was issued afterward as an overreach by the Department of the Interior employees.

“Both are an attempt to intervene in internal Crow politics in order to tilt the balance of power toward the Executive and Legislative branches by stripping the Judicial Branch of its autonomy,” the lawsuit read.

But in a response to the BIA over the audit, Chairman A.J. Not Afraid wrote that, under the Crow Constitution, it was the sole responsibility of the executive branch to administer funds for the judicial branch.

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Not Afraid and Goes Ahead also asserted in their lawsuit that the BIA forced the tribe’s hand when it ultimately terminated both officials. The lawsuit said that during a meeting in August 2018, unnamed representatives from the BIA told Chairman A.J. Not Afraid and Vice-Chairman Duke Goes Ahead that they would lose federal funding for their courts if they did not terminate Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid and Court Administrator Ginger Goes Ahead.

Crow legislators removed Not Afraid on a 12-3 vote in October 2018, after it was recommended by the ethics board. It was not immediately clear when Goes Ahead’s position was terminated. Her attorney, Terryl Matt, did not immediately return a request for clarification Wednesday.

In response to the allegation that the BIA intervened in tribal personnel decisions and forced the termination of Not Afraid and Goes Ahead, the government said the lawsuit failed to connect the dots. Specifically, the lawsuit noted that it was a complaint by Associate Judge Michelle Wilson that set in motion Not Afraid’s termination, and not any act by the defendants. The government did not specifically deny that BIA officials had told the Crow administration to terminate Not Afraid and Goes Ahead or lose funding for the courts. 


Courts and crime reporter Phoebe Tollefson's top 5 stories from 2019

Courts and crime reporter Phoebe Tollefson's top 5 stories from 2019

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