Feds reverse conviction, citing 'rat's nest' of tribal court problems
WASHINGTON – A divided federal appeals court Tuesday overturned the assault conviction of a Gila River Indian Community man, saying the tribal court failed to tell him he could get a trial by jury – if he asked.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Fortino Alvarez’s treatment by the tribal court fell short of the “fair treatment” required under federal law and his convictions for a 2003 assault on his girlfriend had to be reversed.
But Judge Alex Kozinski went on to pointedly criticize the behavior of the tribe’s courts, saying in a concurrence that the case was a reminder of a “rat’s nest” of problems in those courts that were first noted in 1999 and that have seen “too few reforms” since.