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Cain out as Spirit Lake chief judge

FORT TOTTEN -- Shirley Cain, chief judge of the Spirit Lake Tribal Court, was removed from office Wednesday by order of the Tribal Council.

Cain said she had tendered her resignation Friday, making it effective in 30 days, as required by her contract with the tribe, but she received a letter Wednesday from Chairman Roger Yankton directing her to leave the office.

"The tribe let me go today," she said. "They want me out immediately. They kicked me out."

Cain, who has been chief tribal judge for about 15 months -- through the child protection crisis that has roiled and occupied the reservation -- said she was notified of her immediate dismissal first by El Marie Conklin, who has been acting as a special tribal judge, and later by Yankton.

A Tribal Court clerk confirmed that Cain is gone, but she had no further information.

Because she is waiting for final paperwork and her last check from the tribe, Cain said she was reluctant to explain immediately her reasons for offering her resignation last week. But the recent case of a Spirit Lake toddler dying after being removed from a Bismarck foster home and returned to a family member on the reservation was a factor, she said.

The child, Laurynn Whiteshield, a month shy of 3 years old, died June 12. Her step-grandmother, Hope Whiteshield, faces a charge of willfully inflicting serious bodily injury on a child by throwing her down an embankment near her St. Michael home.

It was an order from Cain's court that brought the child back to Spirit Lake.