FLAGSTAFF – A federal appeals court has ruled that a woman who started part of the largest wildfire in Arizona history must exhaust remedies in a tribal court.
Valinda Jo Elliott was lost on White Mountain Apache land for two days in 2002 when she started a blaze to get the attention of a television news helicopter. That fire merged into the Rodeo-Chediski fire.
She wasn’t criminally prosecuted, but the tribe brought a civil case against her.
After she tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed in tribal courts, she turned to a federal district court.
That court held that Elliott must exhaust her tribal court remedies and dismissed the case without prejudice.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling Thursday.