For Immediate Release: August 28th, 2013
Senator French to Governor: Choose Respect
ANCHORAGE – Today, Senator Hollis French released a letter to Attorney General Geraghty sharply criticizing the Parnell Administration’s decision to challenge firmly established tribal court authority in defense of a domestic violence perpetrator.
“Using the cause of a violent criminal who nearly took the life of his domestic partner to challenge Alaskan tribal courts’ ability to protect their own citizens is unconscionable,” Senator French said. “Using taxpayer money to fight a case that is clear-cut legally and morally puts the Parnell Administration on the wrong side of the law, the facts, and defending the side of a domestic batterer.”
In 2009, the Minto Tribal Court issued an order declaring Edward Parks was an unfit parent for his daughter. In 2011, Parks violently assaulted his domestic partner Bessie Stearman, breaking three of her ribs and collapsing her lung. Parks’ daughter, referred to as “S.P.” in court filings, is a member of the Minto tribe and was in protective custody with her guardians at the time of her father’s crime.
The Indian Child Welfare Act and subsequent legal precedent have long held that tribal courts may issue orders governing the custody of their members. In Kaltag v. State of Alaska, a federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals explicitly ruled tribal courts have inherent authority over the adoption of their own members, setting a strong precedent for matters of tribal child custody. The Alaska Supreme Court also declared in John v. Baker II that tribal courts’ decisions should be presumed sound and worthy of recognition unless a challenging party can show otherwise.
“Alaskans are looking for real solutions to the scourge of domestic violence in our state,” said Senator French. “Instead, the Parnell administration has chosen to defend the parental rights of a violent criminal in hopes of undermining the tribal courts that empower Alaska Native communities to provide for the safety and well-being of their citizens. I hope the administration will reconsider these damaging and insulting actions and drop their intervention in Mr. Parks’ case.”
Mr. Parks has his own attorney to carry his case before the Alaska Supreme Court, and the state’s filing as an “Intervenor-Respondent” is optional.
Click here to view the letter:
For more information, please call Nathan Zencey at (907) 269-0234.