A lawsuit was filed in district court in Grand Forks Thursday in an attempt to stop UND's upcoming nickname vote, though for now the vote will continue as planned.

Plaintiffs Lavonne Alberts, Rich Becker and William Le Caine requested in their complaint that the vote be stopped and held only when UND or North Dakota is on the ballot and members of the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes are allowed to participate.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said in an email that the school is aware of what had been filed.

"The university intends to move forward with the nickname vote as planned beginning on Oct. 19 unless otherwise directed by the courts," he said.

Starting Monday, voters will be able to choose from Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders and Sundogs in an online vote that will run through next week. If one name receives more than 50 percent of the vote it would become the school’s new athletic nickname.

Current students, UND employees, donors, retirees, season ticketholders and alumni are allowed to vote, and as many as 82,000 individual email addresses have been compiled for potential voters.

UND's former Fighting Sioux nickname was retired three years ago after the NCAA banned the use of Native American imagery and the requirements of a subsequent settlement agreement with the school weren't met.

The settlement set a three-year window for UND to win support from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes, but only the latter passed a referendum in support.

The plaintiffs are represented by William Brotherton, a UND alumnus whose practice is in Texas. He did not return calls for comment, and local counsel Ward Johnson declined to comment.

Alberts was part of a 2010 lawsuit to keep the Fighting Sioux name and is a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux. Becker is a Republican state representative from Grand Forks, and Le Caine, CEO of Arrow Rezolutions, is a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Sioux in Saskatchewan and Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota.

Becker said it would have been nice to see immediate action from the courts but hopes to have an answer by Monday at the latest.

“The primary thing is I think the vast majority of people around the state and the nation are not happy with the process and the limitation of names and the fact North Dakota and UND wouldn't even be allowed to be on the vote,” he said.

As of 5 p.m. Friday five judges had recused themselves from the proceedings and no action had been taken.

The lawsuit alleges the names up for the vote are only those approved by Kelley and he intended to exclude UND/North Dakota as an option from the beginning. It quotes a statement he made to the Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force, which worked from September 2014 to January 2015, that the school will always be North Dakota and it “isn’t a nickname.”

In its final report the task force recommended the subsequent committee “include/consider” the option of simply remaining UND/North Dakota, and the lawsuit states the committee’s decision to exclude it from the vote was not in line with the task force’s plan.

Republican state Rep. Jim Kasper of Fargo pressed University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott earlier this month at a meeting, asking why he hadn’t intervened when the popular UND/North Dakota option was removed. Hagerott said he looked into the legality and ethics of the process and saw no violations.

State Board of Higher Education Chairwoman Kathleen Neset said in an interview Friday she and Hagerott had discussed it and saw nothing improper.

“There have always been misunderstandings and disagreements but for the most part the intent of the process has been followed,” she said.

The lawsuit also claims the Sioux people weren’t included in any part of the process or the vote. United Tribes Technical College President Leander “Russ” McDonald and UND student R.J. Morin -- both Native Americans -- were each on a committee. The initial task force also held several open forums to gather input locally and in Denver and Minneapolis.

“In other words, someone with no other ties to UND other than the purchase of a season ticket is allowed to participate in the vote on the nickname selection, but not the members of the Sioux Nations, who bestowed the name to UND,” court documents state.

The filing asks for a temporary retraining order to halt the vote and requests a declaratory judgement putting UND/North Dakota on the ballot as it was “arbitrarily and capriciously removed” in the first place.

The documents also say the Legislature, not UND, has the authority to hold such a vote, that

open meetings laws were broken and that UND broke contract by retiring the Fighting Sioux name after it was given to the school in a ceremony Alberts was involved in, and therefore she is suing for damages “in an amount to be provided at trial.”

“Why us? I guess we've been involved a long time, and we think the process was flawed,” Becker said.

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