A District Court judge has sided with the state government in an ongoing dispute between Lake County and Montana over how to pay for law enforcement on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
But while Judge Amy Eddy sided with the state in her ruling on November 9, she was also critical of its decision to only offer Lake County $1 to help cover a bill that often exceeds millions of dollars each year — a sum she called “patently absurd.”
Since the 1960s, law enforcement on the northwest Montana reservation has been handled locally, rather than by federal officers, in a unique agreement between the state and tribe under what is called Public Law 280. The Flathead is the only reservation in the state under this agreement. About two-thirds of the reservation is located within the boundaries of Lake County. The agreement has been lauded as a success for decades, as it allows local officers and local prosecutors to handle local crimes, rather than federal agents from far away. (Since the 1990s, misdemeanor crimes have been handled by the tribal court system).