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.
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.
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