Due Process Rights Take A Back Seat To The “War On Women”


The House today voted in favor of re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. After first considering a version backed by House conservatives, protecting the rights of the accused by removing a provision giving tribal authorities jurisdiction over non-tribal members, they passed the Senate version of the law.

Here in North Dakota, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (who, as a former prosecutor, ought to know better) is trumpeting victory. Congressman Kevin Cramer, who voted for both iterations of the bill, explained his vote on the floor of the House noting that his adopted son was orphaned through an act of violence against his mother:

I’m not sure which version of the bill Cramer was talking about in the video, but he makes specific reference to the law upholding the constitutional rights of the accused. I don’t think that’s true of the final bill that passed the House, which Cramer voted for.

The law is a sop to trial lawyers, who will soon be able to line their pockets by suing women’s shelters, and by extending tribal jurisdiction to non-tribal members accused of crimes on reservation land the door is open to a constitutional challenge to the law.

Tribal courts are notoriously corrupt, something North Dakota leaders ought to be aware of given what’s going on with the child abuse scandal on the Spirit Lake Reservation right now. Legal training for tribal court judges is lax, too.

The VAWA, as passed by the House and Senate, does require that juries for non-tribal members be made up of pools also including non-tribal members. That’s nice in theory. In practice, as anyone familiar with the tribal justice system knows, the idea that non-tribal members are going to get a consistently fair trial in tribal courts is a joke.

But politics trump the Constitution in this matter, it seems. Senator Heitkamp and her party are making this issue central to their political strategy going forward. The North Dakota Democrats just recently passed a party resolution claiming that women are in “emergent danger” merely by being in North Dakota. They plan on riding the “war on women” issue, and their position is that anyone against a policy like the VAWA – even on perfectly valid grounds such as protecting the rights of the accused – is anti-woman in their minds.

And remember that Congressman Cramer is up for re-election next year on the top of the ballot all on his own. There won’t be a governor, or a senate candidate, to take up some of the spotlight. The last thing Cramer needed was Heitkamp and the Democrats accusing him of “attacks on women” as they did with his predecessor Rick Berg who voted against the VAWA in 2011.

We live in a political environment where pandering to this “war on women” craze is more important than constitutional protections for due process. That’s a sad reality.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Anon

    Rob’s such a hack… First, the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act explicitly applies the bill of rights to Indian tribes. Consequently, a defendant will have all the procedural and substantive protections that due process affords in any proceeding under his VAWA in an Indian Tribe. If there is a violation, just like there can be in cases outside Indian Country, a defendant can safeguard those rights by appealing to federal courts or filing a writ of habeas corpus to challenge any improprities. Of course, Rob only supports his conclusion that that there will be violations by resorting to a despicable racism and stereotyping of Indians. He cites nothing to prove that tribal court are corrupt beyond the wholly irrelevant child abuse scandals. Child abuse happens in non-native lands too, it doesn’t mean our federal courts are corrupt though. Additionally, tribe’s have extremely limited jurisdiction over non-Indians. Section 904 of the Act prohibits tribal jurisdiction over a defendant unless the tribal prosecution can show first that the defendant has sufficient ties to the jurisdiction that the tribe should exercise personal jurisdiction and additionally that 1) the defendant resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe, 2) is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or 3) is a spouse or intimate partner of a member of the participating tribe. The jurisdictional limits largely match a tribe’s criminal jurisdiction, so unless Rob also supports wholly removing a tribal authority over crimes concerning their own members and those purposefully availing themselves to the jurisdiction by moving or working there, his diatribe serves to only further support that he is in fact a complete hack for citing such a minor section as his main objection.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      The Indian Civil Rights Act applied the bill of rights to Indian tribes only in a limited way, and that’s not really relevant. The question is whether or not a non-tribal member can get a fair shake in a tribal court.

      Maybe on some reservations, but not others, and in fact there are members of tribes here in North Dakota who question this provision.

      Look at what’s going on in Spirit Lake and tell me it’s a good idea to expand tribal jurisdiction.

      This is a bad idea, and if there’s any justice in the world, the courts will strike it down as they have similar attempts at this in the past.

      • Anon

        “The Indian Civil Rights Act applied the bill of rights to Indian tribes only in a limited way, and that’s not really relevant.”

        i.e. I’m right and you’re wrong, but I”m not going to you why.

        “Look at what’s going on in Spirit Lake and tell me it’s a good idea to expand tribal jurisdiction.”

        First, that is entirely irrelevant and has no bearing on whether tribal courts are corrupt or whether a defendant will get a fair hearing. Child abuse happens in non-native lands and it doesn’t mean our state courts are corrupt. Tribes should have jurisdiction over their own members and whatever happens on there lands. If there are abuses, a defendant can remedy that in federal court system or with a write of habeas corpus.

  • Camburn

    Rob: On this issue your argument is a hollow one.
    Anon did a good job of showing you current law.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      Anon did a poor job, and called me a racist to boot for daring to question the law.

      I’ve seen tribal justice up close and personal. About five years ago I was banished from the Turtle Mountain Indian reservation for writing a column that was critical of the reservation. Under tribal law, I was to be afforded a hearing. I was to be allowed legal council. There was supposed to be due process. I was afforded none of that.

      If that’s tribal justice, pardon me if I’m skeptical of giving tribal courts expanded jurisdiction.

      • Guest

        “Anon did a poor job, and called me a racist to boot for daring to question the law.”

        No, you were called a racist for basing your opposition to the law on presumed corruption of Native Americans.

      • sioux

        I agree with you Rob. I am enrolled at Spirit Lake and I Know for a fact the tribal law enforcement and the judicial systems are corrupt. The Spirit Lake Council gets involved with the courts when their family is charged. Nothing happens to people who harm others. In oct. an elderly man was killed by a drunk driver on the rez and he was out of jail with no bond even before the elderly man was buried. Those outsiders that think the tribes follow rules and laws have no idea how corrupt the whole system is. Whats occuring now on the rez with the children, is not a scandal. It is a travesty and it has been occuring for years and now people are getting sick of it and are starting to speak up. You can talk all the legal jargon you want, it won’t make a difference because the judges in the tribal courts don’t have law degrees in the first place.

  • Roy_Bean

    Heidi just got a law passed with NO protection for hetrosexual white males. She obviously is in favor of women physically abusing their husbands with the blessing and protection of law enforcement. She must hate all men. Shame, shame, shame.

    • Snarkie

      Yea? What about gay black males? Eh, NUTTER?

      • Roy_Bean

        You’re protected.

  • Matthew Hawkins

    You keep stating how women’s shelters are now open to be sued. Other than making that statement you have not shown how. The links to the National Review have not shown how.

    Please explain how this opens the door to lawsuits against women’s shelters.

  • Andy

    I also would like to hear how this bill would open the door to women’s shelters being sued. No need to get into the weeds, just a high level overview would be nice.

  • JoeMN

    Mark Levin takes Cantor to the woodshed on VAWA


  • SusanBeehler

    I am grateful Representative Cramer supported VAWA, he made the best choice, to protect, he also did his research on this. Kudos to Representative Cramer!

  • Hal801

    BREAKING NEWS: Another 0bama brother has been found!!! This is 0bama’s brother by a different mother.


    • chris

      Check out this image. It’s a compilation of almost every Obama conspiracy theory ever.

      • Hal801

        So you are saying the AP got it wrong? At least this 0bama hasn’t illegally entered the US yet. Maybe after he loses the Governors race.