FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday, December 2, 1995 (Embargoed for Saturday


OTJ (202) 616-2765 DD (202) 514-1888

AG JANET RENO CALLS TRIBAL COURTS 'VITAL' AT HISTORIC TRIBAL COURT SYMPOSIUM WITH NORTHEASTERN TRIBAL NATIONS CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Calling tribal courts "vital" to Native American sovereignty, Attorney General Janet Reno brought together, for the first time ever, tribal judges and leaders from nearly every Northeastern tribe and federal and state judges to discuss ways to strengthen the tribal court systems. Developing procedures to recognize tribal court orders such as child support and protective orders against violence on Indian women was one of the goals of Tribal Court Symposium. Reno travelled to Harvard Law School to co-host the day-long symposium. Tribal judges and federal and state judges from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island as well as Canadian officials and Canadian Indian nations were represented. The symposium is a follow-up to the Northwest American Indian Conference convened in Salt Lake City last June which centered on tribal courts and the magistrate projects. Tribal self-government--and its backbone, the tribal court system-- has gained national recognition in the last 30 years. Now, in addition to the core tribal court caseload involving criminal offenses by Indians, tribal courts increasingly are being called upon to decide domestic, commercial and other civil cases between Indians and non-Indians in Indian Country. Building upon President Clinton's April 29, 1994, memorandum concerning "Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments," the Attorney General reaffirmed the Justice Department's Indian policy to support and strengthen tribal self-government. "The ability to self-manage through enhanced law enforcement and tribal justice systems is vital to tribal sovereignty and economic stability of Indian Nations," Reno said. "Tribal court systems are the judicial institutions closest to American Indian victims, offenders and their families--both culturally and physically. They are essential in preserving tribal values and tradition." One of the goals of the symposium was to find solutions that lead to recognition of tribal court orders through comity and full faith and credit. While many tribal courts recognize and enforce state court orders and judgments, some state courts do not fully reciprocate. For example, the Indian Child Welfare Act requires state courts to recognize tribal court orders concerning Indian children. Many state courts fail to do so. Some also fail to comply with the statutory requirement that tribes be given notice when Indian children are the subject of state court proceedings. Also, the Violence against Women Act requires for full faith and credit for protective orders issued under certain circumstances. Yet, not all tribal governments have codes for the issuance of civil protective orders. This year the

Department of Justice awarded nearly $1 million to tribal governments to develop such codes and appropriate court procedures to handle family violence cases. The Honorable J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Michael F. Cavanagh, Associate Justice, Michigan Supreme Court, outlined new ways to enhance federal-state-tribal cooperation. The Honorable C. Arlen Beam, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Court also attended. Tribal judges and leaders also met with Herb Becker, Director of the Department of Justice's new Office of Tribal Justice, which was established in January, 1995 and five U.S. Attorneys from northeastern districts. Since the historic National American Indian Listening Conference last year, the Department of Justice has been active in affirming the Administration's commitment to tribal sovereignty, working with tribal governments on a government to government basis and litigating on behalf of American Indian rights. The Department of Justice's American Indian Initiative has: ​ Established a formal channel of communication for tribes and a permanent policy coordination center to focus Department of Justice positions on American Indian issues through the creation of the Office of Tribal Justice. ​ ​ ​ Defended Native American religious, treaty, governmental and civil rights. Granted over $9 million from police hiring grants to 128 tribes to fund Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Designated: 26 assistant U.S. Attorney positions in districts with a high concentration of American Indian tribes. 7 criminal attorneys to enhance the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section(CEOS) of the Criminal Division. 27 FBI agents to augment investigations in Indian Country. ​ Awarded approximately $1 million to tribal governments through the STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grant Program, with the specific goal of strengthening the response to tribal court systems to violent crimes against women. ​ Designated 45 tribal governments as Tribal Court-DOJ Partnership Projects. The goal of the Tribal Court-DOJ Partnership Project is to strengthen tribal justice systems and particularly their abilities to respond to family violence and juvenile issues. The Office of Tribal Justice and the Department's Tribal Courts Project will use the recommendations proposed today to develop an action plan to enhance the ability of tribal courts to

address contemporary concerns such as domestic violence, environmental degradation and economic development, while respecting tribal values and traditions. ### 95-599