Place Category: Specialized Court Projects
- NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INTERTRIBAL COURT SYSTEM
(MEMBERS: HOPLAND BAND OF POMO INDIANS, CAHTO TRIBE OF THE LAYTONVILLE RANCHERIA, AND THE COYOTE VALLEY BAND OF POMO INDIANS)
- PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
- PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION
- PROGRAM OUTCOMES
Summary: Starting in 2012, Cherokee Nation’s Children’s Behavioral Health Unit, known as the HERO Project, implemented the Positive Parenting Program (“Triple P”) into their work with children and families in response to a long-standing need for more effective child abuse prevention and parenting intervention services. Triple P is open to all families, not just those who are already involved in the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare system. The program partners with community organizations, such as Head Start, and trains teachers and other service providers to implement Triple P, in order to achieve a wider reach. Triple P has improved outcomes for local families by addressing the social and emotional problems faced by parents and children and by suggesting parenting and behavior management strategies that are tailored to the needs of each family.
The Northern California Intertribal Court System is currently made up of three member tribes: Hopland Band of Pomo Indians, Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria, and the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
Northern California Intertribal Court System
Program Running Length:
Michael Gadoua, J.D.
Court Operations Manager
3000 Shanel Road
Hopland, CA 95449
The member tribes arelocated throughout Mendocino County, California. The administrative office of the Intertribal Court System is located on the reservation of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians.Legal proceedings occur on the respective tribal lands based on jurisdiction. Intertribal Court personnel travel around the county to the tribes’ courtrooms to conduct legal proceedings.
Despite being located in the same county, the member tribes (Coyote Valley and Cahto) are 27 and 65 miles, respectively, from the Intertribal Court Administrative offices located in Hopland. The county is mountainous and green with forests of Redwood trees and a mild climate.
The intertribal court system serves all tribal members of the three tribes. According to the recent Census, member tribes had a total population of 295 for the Cahto, Band the Coyote Valley Band had 267 people, and the Hopland Band had 861people.
Public Law 280, enacted by Congress in 1953, gives certain states, including the State of California, concurrent criminal and civil jurisdiction in Indian Country, withdrawing most of the federal government’s responsibility for criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country in those states. PL 280 did not eliminate tribal jurisdiction over criminal or civil matters.
The Intertribal Court hasrevived their own tribal justice system. The tribes’ respective ordinances have been codified and each has its own police department, maintaining, its own sovereignty.The Intertribal Court provides court services for the tribes as well as visitors to the reservations. Depending on the legal structure of each tribe, the Intertribal Court has jurisdiction to hear cases ranging from civil, criminal, traffic, housing, and land use violations, to more serious offenses involving substance abuse and violence. The Intertribal Court exercises the tribes’ cultural justice focusing on restoration, restitution, and rehabilitation.Hopland, Cahto, and Coyote Valley were separately seeking judicial services to revive or start a tribal court. Because they were located in close proximity to each other, the tribes decided to coordinate meetings to save travel costs for court personnel.
To engage the communities in establishing their tribal courts, a “Law Day” was organized for tribal council members, tribal staff, and community members to learn about PL 280, tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction, and tribal courts generally. Hopland hosted the first Law Day, inviting Cahto, Coyote Valley, and other area tribes. After an engaging day-long event, tribal leaders met to discuss the possibility of shared judiciary.
Several of the tribes already collaborated through a health consortium and a housing consortium, so combining resources was not a new idea. However, as opposed to a consolidated court, each tribe insisted that they create a wholly sovereign and unique court of their own.
The initial Law Day led to numerous intergovernmental and advisory planning meetings. An intergovernmental agreement was drafted and redrafted. The Northern California Intertribal Court System was incorporated with its own ByLaws and Rules of Court. However, all other aspects of the law are unique to each member tribe.Restorative justice and peacemaking is rooted within tribal tradition and custom.The court brings together representatives from its 3 member tribes with the goal of providinga culturally appropriate justice system that is based in holistic healing and traditional practices.
The Intertribal Court is overseen by a Judicial Council, consisting of representatives from each of the member tribes. The Judicial Council serves as a shared administrative body for the tribes with Hopland personnel managing and administering the grants.They recently switched to SPARTAN case management software which is a very comprehensive software that will meet all of the NCICS management needs.
The member tribes share a judge, clerk, manager, probation specialist, and a juvenile substance abuse counselor. Each tribe contributes to the operating funds. The Intertribal Rules of Court dictate how cases enter and progress through the system.
According to its Rules of Court, weight is given to relevant prior decisions of the respective each tribe. However, where such decisions do not exist, the Intertribal Court will look first to the notions of fairness inherent in the tribe’s culture, then to the member tribe’s tradition and custom, and finally to other tribal court decisions.
Access to tribal court decisions is difficult. Unlike state court decisions, there is no centralized body, such as WestLaw, collecting tribal case law. Tribes attempt to consistently report decisions to online publishers, and sometimes they self-publish their tribal court’s decisions (e.g., Turtle Talk).The Intertribal Court employs a judge, a clerk, an operations manager, a probation specialist, and a juvenile substance abuse counselor. Essentially, each member tribe shares in the administrative costs of operating the court system. The Intertribal Court manages three distinct dockets, one for each tribe. All tribal members are able to benefit from the services of the court system, including new domestic violence services, protective orders, and an adult and juvenile Healing to Wellness program.Eligibility Criteria: Civil cases can be brought into the court system by any party by filing a petition and paying the filing fee. Tribal police may initiate cases by issuing a citation for infractions of tribal ordinances.Awards through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) provide some funding for court system. By joining forces, the member tribes are able to avoid competing against each other for grant funding, and instead submit one CTAS application as a consortium.
The Intertribal Court currently has three CTAS grants: a FY2014 Office on Violence against Women (OVW) grant to establish a domestic violence court, a FY2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant to establish an adult Healing to Wellness Court, and a FY2015 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant to establish a juvenile Healing to Wellness Court. Both Healing to Wellness Courts are currently in the planning stages. Under its OVW grant, the system has established a domestic violence court, started hearing domestic violence cases in 2015, and offers community trainings on protection orders.By prioritizing the protection of each tribe’s sovereignty and unique customs and tradition, the Intertribal Court reflects community needs while leveraging resources under one administrative umbrella.
Importantly, the Intertribal Court engages the community by hosting a “Law Day,” and has continued to offer Law Days at each tribe throughout the calendar year. The Intertribal Court aspires to offer at least one and up to two Law Days at each tribe each year. “Law Day” consists of court staff offering one-day workshops for community members on a variety of topics. While the first Law Day focused on general issues such as PL 280 and tribal court jurisdiction, subsequent Law Days have focused on particular areas of law, such as probate and domestic violence. These one-day events are opportunities to answer questions from the community and tribal leadership about common legal issues. In addition, they also allow the Intertribal Court to present a public face and present the court as an important expression of each tribe’s sovereignty.
On June 25, 2018, the court operations manager met with Mendocino County Superior Court personnel to review the reciprocity of protective orders and reinforced the mutually-supported relationship between the two jurisdictions.The system has enjoyed real benefits from holding court in each of the member communities but the travel is time-consuming. Because there is no central facility, each member tribe is responsible for supplying its own court security.
Like many communities in Indian Country, the NCICS struggles with staff turnover and attracting personnel. The turnover in staff, which contributed to the pause in court hearings has begun to die down. Currently, the Intertribal Court hasan attorney retained on a contractual basis, and because of the low number of cases, the judge is also contracted on a part time basis.After a brief cessation of hearings (October 2017 to May 2018), the Court has returned to an active full-time status of all operations. At this time, case statistics, such as the total numbers servedare not available. However, the court plans to collect these measures in the future.
The year-over-year increases in caseload and satisfaction with the intertribal court process are indicative of a growing community acceptance of the court system and the courts reputation. The effectiveness of the court has also increased other tribe’s desires to be included in the court system. As a result, a process of accepting other tribes represented into the Intertribal Court is currently being developed.The Intertribal Court has brought greater consistency and reliability to the enforcement of tribal law. In turn, tribal police have become more willing to issue citations that are heard in tribal court. Consequently, community members subsequently became more willing to call tribal police, particularly for lower-level offenses that were previously merely tolerated.
As the Intertribal Court develops and expands capabilities and programs, the cases increase. Long-term results are to be determined. So far, though, court system seems to offer the member tribes a much needed tribal court while sharing much of the administrative and financial burden among the tribes.
- Domestic violence in Indian Country is very problematic. This court and its staff are committed to growing its specialized Domestic Violence Court, which offers emergency protection orders and advertises the availability of this service as much as possible to each community. The caseload is expected to grow, especially as that resource becomes better known.The court system has also established both adult and juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts. Rather than distinct Wellness Courts for each Tribe, the Wellness Courts serves all member tribes as one team, offering intensive treatment and case management services. As the Intertribal Court becomes more established, effective and efficient, the NCICS anticipates expanding its jurisdiction to hear other types of cases.
- NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INTERTRIBAL COURT SYSTEM
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