A Nooksack judge rules that the “biased” tribal council did not afford Seattle lawyer Gabriel Galanda due process when it disbarred him while fighting disenrollment.

Share story

A Nooksack judge ruled Monday that the tribal council — which she called “plainly biased” and given to “extreme tactics” — did not afford Seattle attorney Gabriel Galanda due process when it disbarred him last month.

In doing so, Judge Susan Alexander asserted her independence, and potentially left herself open to being fired. She pointedly noted in a previous order that she was “simply a tribal employee without term or contract.”

Yet, the tribal judge did not lay out how Galanda could regain his ability to practice law on Nooksack land, where he is fighting on behalf of 306 tribal members facing disenrollment.

It is up to Galanda and other attorneys at his firm, also disbarred by the Nooksack, to decide if they will pursue the matter through the council or the courts, Alexander wrote.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

Galanda took the ruling as vindication nonetheless, as well as an attempt by the tribal judge “to hold the tribe together, in the face of what amounts to a coup.”

Nooksack Chairman Bob Kelly did not return requests for comment.

Alexander’s ruling was exceedingly critical of the council. She said that it had done “exactly the opposite of what the court had ordered” by dumping 300 pages of material on her instead of a concise summary of what due process Galanda had been given.

Not one of the declarations in those 300 pages addressed due process, she said, a fact that led her to believe there had been none.

Alexander also noted that the council’s sudden decision to require all attorneys to have a tribal business license — one of the cited reasons for disbarring Galanda — came without any procedures in place for getting such a license.

The judge ordered the council to put such procedures in place by April 1, and also to provide Galanda’s clients with the resolution laying out the reasons for his disbarment, which they have up until now been unable to obtain.

Michelle Roberts, a spokesperson for those facing disenrollment, said she was pleased by the ruling even if it wasn’t clear whether the 306 members would get Galanda back on their case. “We take our wins as we get them,” said Roberts, who has been fighting disenrollment for three years with members of her extended family in sprawling litigation at tribal and federal levels.

During that time, Galanda has turned into an aggressive combatant against disenrollment not just among the Nooksack, but in tribes across the country.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.