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North Carolina Judge Martin named ABA/NHTSA judicial fellow

North Carolina Judge Martin named ABA/NHTSA judicial fellow

By Irma Romero

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2014 — Judge J. Matthew Martin of Asheville, N.C., recently retired associate judge of the Cherokee Court, the tribal court for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has been named an American Bar Association/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Tribal Courts Judicial Fellow.

The purpose of the new Tribal Courts Fellow Program is to provide a functioning relationship between the NHTSA and a judge familiar with motor vehicle- and pedestrian-related offenses in the Indian Nations. The fellow works closely with Bureau of Indian Affairs, organizations representing highway safety issues throughout the country and the ABA Judicial Division’s Native American Tribal Courts Committee, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges and Tribal Courts Council. The fellow’s term is for one year, with the possibility of an additional year. 

Judge J. Matthew Martin, Asheville, N.C.

Martin, 53, provided 11 years of service to the Cherokees in North Carolina, and his jurisdiction included the largest Indian reservation east of the Mississippi River. A graduate of the University of North Carolina and its School of Law, he also holds a master’s in judicial studies from the University of Nevada-Reno. He served as a clerk to a U.S. district judge and argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court at age 31. His many professional activities include serving as chair of the ethics committee of the ABA’s National Conference of Specialized Court Judges. Martin teaches federal Indian law at UNC and Elon University and is in part-time law practice with his father. 

Martin’s interest in being an ABA/NHTSA fellow, where he will work with NHTSA headquarters and its Region 6 office in Fort Worth, Texas, was spurred in part by the horrific experience of his wife, Catherine, being seriously injured by a reckless driver in 1996. 

Specifically regarding traffic offenses in Indian Country, Martin said: “Any traffic fatality is an irrevocable tragedy, but when a member of an indigenous nation dies, a part of our national culture dies as well. This is someone who will not pass on the local Native traditions to another generation. So, traffic safety in Indian Country is magnified through the lens of populations who have been subjected to genocide. The stakes are more than life and death.” 

Martin estimates that, as a practitioner and a judge, he has been involved in hundreds, if not thousands, of impaired driving cases. 

For more information, please contact Al Leeds at 202-662-1037 or

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.  

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