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Lawyer Gary J. Montana has filed a libel suit against the Uintah Basin Standard newspaper in Ute Indian Tribal Court.

The suit seeks $150,000 in general damages and $1 million in punitive damages from the Standard and like amounts from the writer of a letter published in the newspaper last week.The complaint accuses the newspaper of publishing "with actual malice and in reckless disregard of the plaintiff's character a defamatory and libelous `letter to the editor' entitled, `Member Disagrees with Committee.' "

The suit says the letter, "allegedly written by some unknown individual or individuals by the name of `Purple Sky,' " indicated that the tribal attorney had acted in an unprofessional manner both on and off the job.

"Publication of this letter constitutes libel per se because it has injured the plaintiff's business and clearly infers that the plaintiff is not a competent attorney," the complaint says.

The complaint also says Montana asked publisher Craig Ashby to identify the letter writer and he would not.

Commenting on the suit, Ashby said: "The Standard has always been a conservative voice in the community. Our columns are open to comments from the public, under guidelines that preclude libelous and damaging accusations. In reference to the letter in question, we maintain that the writer had every right to express their opinion, which we felt was well within the bounds of propriety and good taste."

He added, "The `Letters to the Editor' column of the Standard is an avenue open to anyone feeling a need to express an opinion or suggestion for their community, and we have great concern when this basic right is threatened."