Thursday, September 10, 2009

Petitioning Rights Case To Be Heard In Mohegan Tribal Court On Friday At 2:30

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A hearing will be held tomorrow at 2:30 in the case of Michael Bartha v. The Mohegan Tribe, which is a case that questions the Tribal government's refusal last Spring to acknowledge a petition that sought to conduct a referendum on a freedom of information law drafted by Tribal members.

Last Spring, Tribal members petitioned to enact their own version of a Freedom of Information Ordinance which but the Tribe would not allow a referendum vote by Tribal members on the proposed ordinance. The reasons for denying the members a vote on the proposed ordinance is the subject of the case but tomorrow a hearing will be held on the Tribal government's motion to have the case dropped before it can be heard on its merits.

The substance of Bartha's case is that the Constitution allows for members to vote on ordinances created by Tribal members with a petition of 35 Tribal members signatures but the Tribe's election ordinance (created by the Tribal Council) has no provision for that civil right that is stated in the Mohegan Constitution. The petition was denied because the election ordinance makes no provision for that type of petition.

Article XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution states that "The members of The Tribe reserve to themselves the power to propose ordinances and resolutions and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Tribal Council upon petition of thirty-five (35) of the registered voters within seven (7) days of such action."

While Bartha believes the petition is legal based on the constitution, even the constitution is not entirely clear. While the constitution says, as noted above, that 35 tribal members can enact an ordinance by referendum another section of the constitution says that signatures of 40 percent of the voters must sign a petition to enact an ordinance.

Bartha asserts that the election code violates his right to petition to enact ordinances as guaranteed under the Mohegan Constitution and asks the Tribal Court to rule on the constitutionality of the election ordinance by its failure to refer to the Consitution's section concerning enacting ordinances by referendums with a petition of 35 signatures.

The Tribal Courtroom is open to the public and Tribal members are encouraged to attend to see their court in action.