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Tribal Courts Council

Enhancing the Fairness and Function of Native American Tribal Courts

Chair: Mr. Robert O. Saunooke, Cherokee, NC

Who We Are

The Tribal Courts Council (TCC) 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 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.

Learn more

What We Do

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 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 many important programs, including those relating to the Violence Against Women Act and other programs relating to criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.  The Council presented “Spotlight on the Violence Against Women Act of 2013: A Practical Guide to the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Pilot Projects and What to Expect After March 2015” at the 2015 ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston, TX.

Join the Tribal Courts Council

Become a member of the Tribal Courts Council and give Tribal Courts a voice in the American Bar Association. 

Judicial Division members may join the Tribal Courts Council by contacting Danielle Norwood with your member ID or by enrolling online.

If you are not a member, please call (800) 285-2221 or visit ABA Membership to join the ABA and the Judicial Division, prior to enrolling.

ABA Supports Tribal Justice Issues

Resolution 115C, 2019: Supports the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the effort to strengthen tribal jurisdiction over their child welfare system, uphold tribal kinship and set standards specific for American Indians/Alaska Natives child and youth placement.

Resolution 115A, 2019: Urges Congress to ensure that the health care delivered by the Indian Health Service (IHS) is exempt from government shutdowns and federal budget sequestrations on par with the exemptions provided to the Veterans Health Administration.

At the August 2014 ABA Annual Meeting, the House of Delegates voted to allow individuals in good standing of a tribal court of any federally recognized tribe to be full members of the ABA.  

Resolution 111A, 2013: RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association urges the full implementation of, and compliance with, the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. §§1901-63).

Resolution 115, 2010: RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to re-authorize and fully fund the Violence Against Women Act and similar legislation that...

Resolution 117A, 2008: RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to support quality and accessible justice by ensuring adequate, stable, long-term funding for tribal justice systems.

ABA Resources

ABA/NHTSA Tribal Courts Fellow

ABA Journal News: Tribal Law/Courts

The Judges' Journal Volume 55 No. 4: Tribal Courts

The Judges' Journal Volume 59 No. 2: Tribal Courts

Additional Tribal Justice Resources

Administering Justice in Tribal Courts During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Virtual Talking Circle
Sponosred by the National American Indian Court Judges Association

National American Indian Court Judges Association

National Judicial College National Tribal Judicial Center

Tribal Law and Policy Institute
        Tribal Court Clearinghouse

Contact Us

Danielle Norwood
Program Specialist, ABA Judicial Division
[email protected]