Schaghticoke Indian Tribe v. Rost
Tribal sovereignty may only be invoked by a member of the tribe. Michael Rost lived on the Schaghticoke Indian reservation with Gayle Donovan, a recognized Schaghticoke Indian. The plaintiffs, the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe (SIT) and Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, (STN), served Rost with a notice to quit possession of the reservation and commenced this summary process action in the Superior Court. The defendant, pro se, filed an answer and challenged the plaintiffs authority to evict him. The plaintiffs' counsel withdrew. New counsel appeared representing STN alone. Trial ensued. Counsel for SIT appeared and filed a motion to open the evidentiary portion of trial. The court denied the motion as the profferred evidence concerned only an ongoing dispute between SIT and STN over tribal leadership, which was immaterial to the summary process matter. The court rendered a judgment of possession for the plaintiffs and found that STN "through its [t]ribal [c]ouncil, is the governing authority for the Schaghticoke tribe." The defendant appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court improperly exercised jurisdiction by adjudicating the action involving sovereign reservation land. SIT filed a motion to open concerned about the res judicata effect of the court recognizing STN as the governing authority. The court denied the motion but opened its decision and vacated that finding clarifying that the plaintiffs collectively represented the Schaghticokes. The defendant did not amend his appeal. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court properly exercised both personal and subject matter jurisdiction in adjudicating this action. Having filed an appearance and responsive pleading without timely moving to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction, the defendant waived his right to attack the court's judgment on personal jurisdiction grounds. The court's exercise of jurisdiction did not constitute an undue infringement on Schaghticoke tribal sovereignty as claimed. Pursuant to the trial court's postjudgment ruling, which the defendant did not challenge, the plaintiffs who initiated the action collectively represented the Schaghticokes. By initiating the summary process action in state court, the plaintiffs effectively consented to the court's jurisdiction. As members of state recognized tribes, Schaghticoke Indians are considered full citizens of Connecticut with all rights and privileges, including access to state's courts. Moreover, the defendant never asserted that he was a recognized tribal member to invoke tribal sovereignty.