Tribal Court Access to Protection Order Registries Could Have Prevented Gun Tragedy

Contact
Judge Richard Blake, President
NAICJA Board of Directors
Telephone: (530) 515-6245
Website: www.naicja.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2015
 
TRIBAL COURT ACCESS TO PROTECTION ORDER REGISTRIES COULD HAVE PREVENTED GUN TRAGEDY
 
Boulder, Colorado, April 6, 2015– Tribal Courts Call for Immediate Direct Access to Federal and State Protection Order Registries.
 
As Raymond Lee Fryberg, the father of 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg awaits arraignment on federal charges relating to his son’s use of a gun Fryberg purchased illegally, tribal courts across the country are calling for immediate access to state and federal protection order registries to prevent further tragedy. Jaylen Fryberg killed four students and himself and injured one other student on October 24, 2014 at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington.
 
Fryberg was prohibited from possessing firearms as a result of a permanent protection order issued by the Tulalip Tribal Court in 2002. The Tulalip Tribes are an American Indian nation that neighbors Marysville, the small Washington town where the shooting tragedy occurred. A federal investigation revealed that Fryberg lied on forms when he purchased the gun stating that he was not subject to a protection order. The instant background check of state and national protection order registries did not reveal the existence of the Tulalip order. Currently, there is no national tribal registry for protection orders. Additionally, many, if not most, tribal protection orders are not entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Protection Order File (POF), a federal registry for protection orders. The Tulalip Tribes are a sovereign Indian nation and the Tribal Court exercises civil and criminal jurisdiction pursuant to the Tribes’ powers of self-government. It is because of this separate sovereignty that state protection order registries are closed to tribal courts. This results in the failure of state-wide registration of tribal court protection orders, including the 2002 order issued against Fryberg by the Tulalip Tribal Court.
 
In the State of Washington, the Washington State Police controls access to the protection order registry. In 2004, pursuant to a state audit, tribal police departments were restricted from accessing the system because the language of state law does not include tribes as approved agencies. Following the decision to bar tribes from entering tribal protection orders in the state database, some tribes in Washington developed a protocol with local county superior courts by which the county court clerk enters the tribal orders into the state system. This system is not flawless and can result in misses and delays in the registration of tribal protection orders. Elsewhere in the country, some tribes have entered into memoranda of understanding or other cooperative agreements with neighboring state jurisdictions so that the tribal protection orders are entered into the state and federal registries.
 
“This problem is not a local problem or unique to the Tulalip Tribes. The issue of lack of entry of tribal protection orders in state and federal databases is a national crisis,” said Judge Richard Blake, President of the Board of Directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA). Tribal courts and tribal court judges have been working for decades to gain direct access to state and federal protection order registries in order to enter their orders. “We had hoped that with the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 which mandated the federal government to provide access to federal databases that this critical gap in public safety would be closed. But here we are five years later and the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI are still in violation of the statutory requirement that tribes be given direct access to the NCIC system. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families of the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting at this very difficult time. Our sincere hope is that immediate direct access is granted to tribal courts to enter protection orders to prevent further harm and loss of life,” said Blake.
 
NAICJA, established in 1969 and headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which provides a national voice for the more than 332 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal justice systems in the United States and supports those systems by providing resource materials, information, technical assistance, and training.
 
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Judge Richard Blake, President, NAICJA Board of Directors at (530) 515-6245 or email at president@naicja.org.