California Legislature Enacts Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner |

California has 109 federally recognized tribal governments and millions of tribal citizens living within the state, according to the Judicial Council of California. The Bureau of Indian Affairs lists more than 566 tribal governments nationwide in the 2014 Tribal Entities List and with changes in the federal acknowledgement process – this number could grow considerably in coming years.

Each of these Nations is a sovereign and operates as a foreign nation in many respects. If a party is seeking to enforce a judgment in a tribal court, they previously had to do so under the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act. The act includes within the definition of “foreign-country judgment” a judgment by any Indian tribe recognized by the government of the United States.

There has been a significant overhaul to this bill in the Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act. The bill was signed into law on August 22, 2014 by California Governor Jerry Brown. It was then entered by Secretary of State as Chapter 243, Statutes of 2014.

This bill, until January 1, 2018, exempts tribal judgments from the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act, and would instead enact the Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act. The new act provides for the enforceability of tribal court money judgments in California.

The act prescribes a procedure for applying for recognition and entry of a judgment based on a tribal court money judgment, the procedure and grounds for objecting to the entry of judgment and the bases upon which the court may refuse to enter the judgment or grant a stay of enforcement.

One of the best provisions acknowledging tribal sovereignty is that “[n]othing in this title shall be deemed or construed to expand or limit the jurisdiction of either the state or any Indian tribe.”

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Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at and 619.515.3277.