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Criminal Justice & Legal System

MI Supreme Court: Convictions stemming from tribal government post do not impede city council run

Michigan Supreme Court
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Michigan Supreme Court Building

The Michigan Supreme Court says the state’s tribal governments do not fall under a constitutional provision that can prevent some people from running for office.

Fred Paquin was on the board of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians' governing body. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in 2010.

If a person has a felony involving dishonesty, fraud, etc. that stems from their position of employment in local, state, or federal government, they can’t run for state or local office. Paquin committed the crime, but he argued that he could still run for city council. He said that was because he was a member of a tribe, which doesn’t fall under the categories in the Constitution.

The Michigan Supreme Court agreed. It said to call a tribe a local government would “reach for a strained interpretation of that term.”

Joseph Kwiatkowski is Fred Paquin’s attorney. Paquin sued the City of St. Ignace when it refused to put him on the ballot for city council. Kwiatkowski told the court during arguments that tribes should not be considered local governments.

“Nowhere have I found a definition of local government in any statute in Michigan or other provision that includes a sovereign Indian tribe,” says Kwiatkowski.

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