Tribal Courts Council

Tribal Courts Council
Enhancing the Fairness and Function of
Native American Tribal Courts

The Tribal Courts Council is a free-standing committee of the Judicial Division. It was formed to respond to the need for educating and advising ABA members and the general public about issues affecting Indian Country and the far-reaching but little-known effect of those issues on all areas of the legal profession. The Tribal Courts Council was also created as a means of advancing the ABA goal of promoting diversity in the legal profession. Finally, the Tribal Courts Council was formed in response to the potential for a large membership base of diverse peoples involved in tribal justice, many programmatic opportunities, the desire among tribes for affiliation with the ABA and the Judicial Division, and interest in tribal issues on the part of other members of ABA entities.

Attorney Robert O. Saunooke currently chairs the Tribal Courts Council, is an Executive Committee member of the Lawyers Conference, and is on the ABA Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary. Mr. Saunooke was recently appointed to the board of the National Native American Bar Association, which entitles him to a vote in the ABA House of Delegates. He is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians with over twenty years of legal representation of Native American people and tribal governments throughout the United States.

The Tribal Courts Council is dedicated to engaging in programs and projects that enhance the effectiveness of those who appear, work, and practice before and within tribal courts and their governing bodies. In the process, the Tribal Courts Council contributes to efforts to improve the fairness and functioning of Native American tribal courts and to correct misperceptions about tribal courts and governments. It strives to:

  • Build public and legal-profession awareness of, and respect for, tribal courts;
  • Encourage lawyers to become familiar with laws relating to Native Americans and to consider practicing in Indian Country;
  • Press Congress to nominate more Native American federal judges and pass legislation of importance to Native American tribes and individuals; and
  • Encourage Native American law students to pursue judicial clerkships and internships.

The Tribal Courts Council has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of important programs, including those relating to Amnesty International’s Maze of Injustice and other programs relating to criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Robert Saunooke is a leader of the 2012 Midyear program, “Perceptions of Justice: A Dialogue on Color, Ethnicity, and the Courts.” Additional programming is currently under consideration.

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