Law and the Great Plains: Essays on the Legal History of the Heartland

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

Part IV
Judiciaries of the Great Plains

Judging in the Great Plains has not been the subject of systematic investigation. Other regions' judiciaries have been chronicled, such as the justices of the peace in the Pacific Northwest 1 or state supreme courts in the Rockies 2 or county courts in the South, 3 but not those of the Great Plains.

Plains courts are complicated. The range of judicial experiences is diverse. All of the Plains states contain Native American courts. These include the nineteenth-century Courts of Indian Offenses, the twentieth- century tribal courts set up as a result of the Indian New Deal, and the twelfth-century or earlier traditional courts of the Pueblos. New Mexico contains courts from the Spanish, Mexican, and territorial periods. Texas, similarly, boasts Spanish and Mexican courts plus its own nine-year Republic judiciaries. Aside from Texas, all of the Plains states went through various territorial periods. All were unique. Courts from Louisiana Territory, Indian Territory, Dakota Territory, the Missouri District, and Washington Territory all extended to the Great Plains. Extra-legal court proceedings punctuated the range cattle industry throughout the Plains and mining in the Black Hills.

Indian courts and territorial courts of the Great Plains have not been systematically studied. Similarly, the ten state court systems have been ignored. Federal courts on the Great Plains have also not enjoyed scholars'

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