Maine Supreme Court Issues Favorable Decision for Regina Petit and the Passamaquoddy Tribe

The Maine Supreme Court issued a decision in John P. Moyant v Regina Petit et al. on Wednesday reaffirming the tribal court’s authority to oversee disputes regarding tribal land, stating that a lawsuit filed by Moyant over his access to a campsite on tribal lands was an internal tribal matter.  Drummond Woodsum attorneys Kaighn Smith, Jr., Esq., and Michael-Corey F. Hinton, Esq. represented Regina Petit and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
“This is a huge win for the Passamaquoddy Tribe and for tribal sovereignty in Maine,” commented attorney Corey Hinton.
Background Summary
In 1983, Harry Fry (not a member of the Tribe) entered into a 1-year campsite lease with the Passamaquoddy Tribe.  The camp is located on tribal trust land on Junior Lake.  In 2011, Fry transferred his lease to Regina Petit, a member of the Tribe, and stated he had no future interest in the property.  In 2012, the Tribe approved of the transfer and, in 2015, Fry died.  John Moyant, a resident of Florida who is not a member of the Tribe, visited the property, made improvements to the property, and stored personal belongings at the property beginning while Fry was alive and continuing through June 2017. In June 2017, Petit notified Moyant that he was not allowed to return to the property.  In response, Moyant wrote Petit a letter stating that he would break into the camp if he was unable to get access from Petit. In June 2017, Petit contacted the Chief of Police for the Passamaquoddy Tribe and caused Moyant to be served with a no-trespass notice. On February 8, 2019, Moyant filed a complaint in the Superior Court against Petit and the Tribe.  The Tribe and Petit responded with a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the lawsuit involved an internal tribal matter over which state courts lack jurisdiction.  The Superior Court granted the motion to dismiss and the Law Court affirmed dismissal of the case.