BJA Sponsored Webinars

Webinar 1: Tribal Initiatives: Tribal Public Defense and How to Use Existing Resources to Provide Holistic Defense in Tribal Communities (View PowerPoint)

The “Tribal Initiatives: Tribal Public Defense and How to Use Existing Resources to Provide Holistic Defense in Tribal Communities” Webinar was held on January 13, 2015 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (MST).  The first presenter, Alex Sierck, Project Director for the Center for Holistic Defense, Bronx Defenders, provided a background on how Holistic Defense works and the importance of having a team based model to support clients’ needs.  He also discussed the BJA grant awarded to Bronx Defenders which supports the Center’s efforts to provide training and technical assistance to Public Defender Offices that may be considering more holistic approaches to representation.  Alex expressed a desire to provide assistance to tribes and encouraged tribes to contact the Center.  Ann Sherwood, Attorney, Defenders Office of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, presented her Office’s approach to implement the Holistic Defense model in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) tribal community with assistance from the Center for Holistic Defense.  She stressed that clients could be provided with seamless access to justice even where resources are extremely limited.   The CSKT Defenders Office’s success is largely attributed to finding the right people for the job, getting buy-in and support from the community, and building collaborative relationships with local, public and private entities.  CSKT Defenders is able to provide an impressive range of services to clients, including diversion and cultural mentoring programs, assistance with collateral consequences, and mental health services; however, more resources are required to address additional clients’ needs.   Ann shared the benefits of providing holistic public defense services, gave examples of using existing resources to expand public defender services in tribal communities, and offered some ideas for seeking additional resources. 

The webinar recording and power point slides were emailed to all registrants on January 14, 2015.  

Webinar 2: Successfully Developing Tribal Justice Systems in a Public Law 280 State (View PowerPoint)

The webinar, “Successfully Developing Tribal Justice Systems in a Public Law 280 State,” was held on March 11, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. (E.T.). 

Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of the California Indian Legal Services, and Bill Denke, Chief of Police, Sycuan Nation Tribal Police Department, presented on building a justice system in Public Law 280 states.  First, they noted that a tribal community should determine if they want a tribal court and their own law enforcement.  The presenters suggested utilizing public meetings and questionnaires to assist in making this determination.  The presenters stressed that without the tribal community’s support a tribal justice system may fail.    

Ms. Alther discussed the “Three C’s” that are needed to build a tribal justice system.  The “Three C’s” are codes, courts, and cops.  She stated that written codes are preferred over oral or verbal laws.  The types of court models may vary.  Some models she has had experience with are a single court with a single judge or a consortium court, where several tribes utilize an agreement to set up a court.  Ms. Alther explained that some small tribes find that a consortium approach is helpful economically.  She emphasized that the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers must be well defined in an ordinance and in policy and procedures. 

The presenters discussed funding challenges that may occur in setting up a tribal justice system.  Ms. Alther explained that development or “seed” funding is competitive and is for a short duration of time.  She discussed that operational or “sustaining” funding can be utilized to continue the ongoing operations of the tribal justice system.  She stated that both types of funding are critical to have and may be difficult to secure.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Justice Assistance offers competitive funding sources that tribes may apply for. 

Mr. Denke elaborated on the topic of cops in building a tribal justice system.  He discussed challenges that tribes may encounter in accessing the federal, state, and local law enforcement information systems.  He explained that those accessing the law enforcement information systems must be part of a public agency.  In California, there was push back from the state and local authorities for tribes to access the systems.  Mr. Denke described that in 2009, the Office of Tribal Justice, DOJ engaged tribes experiencing difficulty with accessing federal information systems.  The Office of Tribal Justice implemented a pilot project for direct connectivity to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (NLETS).  The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, DOJ funded the pilot project.  Mr. Denke shared his experience of having the Sycuan Tribe’s access to federal and state information systems blocked by the State of California and how the tribe gained access to the systems by working with the Office of Justice Services (OJS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). 

We hope this webinar will assist tribes in the development of their justice systems and in accessing law enforcement information systems.  The webinar slide deck and recording of the presentation will be sent via email to those who registered for the webinar.  It also will be archived on the National American Indian Court Judges Association's website for later viewing.                            

Webinar 3: EXPUNGEMENT AND INDIAN COUNTRY: The Need to Address Past Criminal Histories for a Better Future (View PowerPoint)

The “EXPUNGEMENT AND INDIAN COUNTRY: The Need to Address Past Criminal Histories for a Better Future” was held on February 18, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. (ET). 

Colline Keely, Executive Director, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services (OILS), Steven Hager, Director of Litigation, OILS, and Niki Lindsey, Managing Attorney, OILS Ada, Oklahoma office, provided an expungement overview including, what expungement is, what kind of criminal records can be expunged, and the impact of having a criminal record based on their experience in Oklahoma state and tribal courts and working with tribal clients.  They also discussed how expungement has helped their clients by removing impediments and allowing clients to obtain employment, housing assistance, and professional licenses. 

Additionally, the presenters discussed the general elements of expungement and presented the three ways a client’s record could be cleaned up in Oklahoma: 1) expunging a deferred sentence under Title 22 O.S. §991c; (2) expunging records other than a deferred sentence under Title 22 O.S. §§18 & 19; and (3) by seeking a pardon.  The processes and requirements for cleaning up a criminal record were discussed in depth. 

The presenters concluded with a discussion on the comprehensive services OILS provides, including holding expungement clinics.  The clinics allow the attorneys to inform people of their rights, make initial assessments of qualification and records of clients, and advise the clients of what an expungement is and is not.  There was also some discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of holding the clinics.  The clinics are useful in that they can provide maximum services for minimal costs, service across the service area, use pro bono attorneys and law students to assist in clinics, as well as train future advocates.  Some of the disadvantages include the lack of internet connectivity, space and time, and ability to follow-up with clients to access records.  The presentation was followed by a question and answer session and concluded with a brief overview of Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) resources.

We received several email responses thanking us for this webinar topic.  We hope the outcome is that more tribes will encourage expungement codes to be implemented, educate their members on how to obtain an expungement and provide the service under their BJA grants and/or seek to work with their local legal aid offices to collaborate on this issue.  

Webinar 4: Building a Collaborative Court with Other Jurisdictions to Treat Nonviolent Tribal Adult Offenders (View PowerPoint)

The webinar, “Building a Collaborative Court with Other Jurisdictions to Treat Nonviolent Tribal Adult Offenders,” was held on March 4, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. (E.T.). 

Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, Anthony Trombetti, and Jolanda Ingram-Obie of the Yurok Tribal Court presented an overview of the collaborative court that administers the Yurok Wellness Program.  They explained that the wellness program began in 2009 with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.  The Yurok Wellness Program provides outpatient and residential treatment to tribal members, who have substance abuse problems.  The program incorporates cultural awareness by encouraging and supporting tribal members, who are recovering or recovered, to attend community and cultural events.  For example, the tribal court will sponsor a sober gathering or camping at a Yurok ceremonial dance.  The Yurok Tribe is a world renewal culture and has Brush Dances, White Deer Skin Dances, and Jump Dances.   

The presenters stressed how they built trust and intergovernmental cooperation prior to proposing the collaborative court model to the Del Norte and Humboldt counties.  First, the tribal court established its capacity and expertise to monitor, supervise, and treat tribal adult offenders.  The tribal court also participated in trainings on a consistent basis to learn and implement best practices.  The notoriety of Abby Abinanti among judges in the county court system greatly assisted in building the intergovernmental cooperation.    

The presenters described that the collaborative court began when the Yurok Tribal Court approached two counties and proposed taking responsibility for nonviolent tribal adult offenders, who were on probation.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered into with each county for the co-monitoring of adult offenders, establishing protocols for transferring cases, recognition of tribal court orders, and cultural needs of the offenders. The tribal court personnel are responsible for compliance monitoring of the adult offenders and reporting any violations to the appropriate county court, either Del Norte or Humboldt.  Treatment assessments and case management also is provided by tribal court personnel in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.  Personnel from the tribal court and the county courts cooperate and share client information.     

Next, the presenters discussed the success achieved through the collaborative court.  They identified elements of success that included tribal-state cooperation, tribal-state colleagues, strengthening tribal courts, strengthening tribal members, an empathetic work force, and sharing the victories between the tribal court and counties when tribal adults have graduated from the program.  The presenters provided data to show the court’s success in assisting tribal adult members to establish a drug free lifestyle.    

We hope this webinar will assist tribal courts in partnering with other jurisdictions to create a collaborative court.  The webinar slide deck and recording of the presentation will be sent via email to those who registered for the webinar.  It also will be archived on the National American Indian Court Judges Association's website for later viewing.