The National American Indian Court Judges Association recently reestablished the National Tribal Justice Resource Center in Boulder, Colorado. They are, from left, back row: Judges Winona Tanner, Cheryl Fairbanks, Susan Wells, Peggy Bird, and Winifred Thomas. Second row: Judges Gary Smith, Rusty Swan, Julie Yarlott, Darrell Dowry, and James Shepperd; First row: Judges Kevin Briscoe, Jill Tompkins, and Richard Blake.

Tribal Judges Revive National Tribal Justice Resource Center

Carol Berry

Increasingly powerful tribal courts can make use of a law resource center that will provide training and technical assistance to tribal justice systems across the country.

The National Tribal Justice Resource Center (NTJRC) will be reestablished in Boulder, Colorado where it originated in 2000 but was curtailed for lack of funding, the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA) said in a press release.

Judge Jill E. Tompkins, Penobscot, was elected president of the NAICJA executive committee to oversee the organization, a voluntary association of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal court justices and others “interested in supporting tribal justice administration.”

Tompkins also heads the University of Colorado-Boulder’s American Indian Law Clinic and is a clinical professor of law at UCB.

The NTJRC will offer scholarships for tribal judges, tribal prosecutors, defense counsel and lay advocates for tribes without the necessary funds to send their personnel to the trainings at National Judicial College (NJC) in Reno, Nevada.

The NTJRC programs will be developed in part through a half-million-dollar, two-year grant from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Technical Assistance. On-site and other training sessions to strengthen and enhance tribal criminal justice systems will be initiated in partnership with the NJC and the Tribal Justice Institute of the University of North Dakota.

“NAICJA had a couple of difficult years when we lost the funding for the NTJRC,” Tompkins said. “Strong tribal courts are essential to the safety, economic development and well-being of tribal nations. We are excited to be back in a position to provide support and assistance to tribal justice systems across the country.”

The Native American Rights Fund, the National Indian Law Library and UCB’s American Indian Law Program provide supportive services in Boulder, she said.

In addition to Tompkins, those elected to two-year terms on the NAICJA governing board are Judges Richard Blake, Hoopa Valley, first vice-president; Kevin Briscoe, Mississippi Band of Choctaw, second vice-president; Winona Tanner, Salish and Kootenai, treasurer; Amanda Rockman, Ho-Chunk, secretary; and at-large members Cheryl Fairbanks, Intertribal Court of Arizona and Winnifred Thomas, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin.

Additional board members include Judges Darrell Dowty, Cherokee; James Sheppard, Central Tribal Council, Arkansas; Mark Pouley, Swinomish; Richard Jackson, Fort Peck, Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes; Brenda Dupris, Cheyenne River Sioux; Herb Yazzie, Navajo; Peggy Bird, Pueblo of Laguna; and Rusty Swan and Susan Wells, both Kenaitze.

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normanmicco's picture
Submitted by normanmicco on
Congress needs to expand the National Tribal Justice Resource Center to include a legal department for legal representation for tribal members.The Indian Civil Rights Act,and supplements,needs to be amended to have all tribes create a legal department for legal representation for all their tribal members free of cost,in tribal civil and criminal cases.