U.S. District Judge rules on Freedmen case

U.S. District Judge rules on Freedmen case
(MNN file Photo) A District of Columbia federal judge ruled May 6, in Muscogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band case in which the Freedmen brought suit against U.S. Department of the Interior official as well as tribal leaders.

Angel Ellis/Reporter

Federal court dismisses case without prejudice

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge ruled May 6, in Muscogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band case in which the Freedmen brought suit against U.S. Department of the Interior officials as well as tribal leaders.

United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ‘dismissed without prejudice, the freedmen’s complaint that under the Creek Treaty of 1866, they should have the rights and privileges of MCN citizens, regardless of their “blood status” stating that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their tribal remedies.

Back in October 2018, lawyers for MCN Principal James Floyd filed a Motion to Dismiss, raising various grounds for dismissal.

The motion asked the courts to dismiss Floyd, in his official capacity from the case citing a lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and a failure to exhaust tribal administrative and judicial remedies before bringing the case to the D.C. courts.

“We filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on several grounds, including the failure of the plaintiffs to pursue and exhaust the processes that are in place under our laws to apply for citizenship in Muscogee Nation,” Chief Floyd said in a press release on May 8.

“The Court agreed, finding that ‘nowhere in their Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they actually applied for enrollment in the tribe…,’ and dismissed the case for failing to exhaust the remedies that are available under tribal law.”

According to the latest ruling, the court will ‘grant Defendant Floyd’s Motion to Dismiss but denied without prejudice federal Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.’

The ‘without prejudice’ can affect what comes next.

When a lawsuit is dismissed, the court may enter a judgment with or without prejudice.

According to Legal dictionary.com, when a lawsuit is dismissed without prejudice, it signifies that none of the rights or privileges of the plaintiff [Muscogee (Creek) Indian Freedmen Band, INC.] involved are considered to be lost or waived.

It means that there is not a final ruling on the merit of the case and that the plaintiff could still have an opportunity to bring the case again.

A court may also rule on a case with prejudice.

‘This signifies that the court has made an adjudication on the merits of the case and a final disposition, barring the plaintiff from bringing a new lawsuit based on the same subject,’ Legal dictionary.com states.

In the matter of the Freedmen, the judge presiding over the case has preserved their rights to legal remedy.

‘The Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ Complaint should be dismissed without prejudice based on Plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust their tribal remedies by applying for citizenship and appealing any adverse determinations,’ the documents stated.

While the defendants argue that had they exhausted that avenue it would be futile, but the court maintained that it needed proof of futility.

The freedmen presented two instances of the application for citizenship and the documented tribal court cases that arose from those applications.

The Court finds ‘Plaintiffs’ anecdotal evidence of two other Freedmen descendants, not parties to these lawsuits, who applied for and were denied citizenship over a decade ago is insufficient to establish futility.’

“We are grateful for the Court’s respect for the administrative and judicial processes that are provided for under the Nation’s laws,” Chief Floyd said.

Mvskoke Media reached out to counsel for the Muscogee Creek Indian Freedman Band INC. However, they were unable to provide comment by press time.

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