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News Posted on October 1, 2018

Tribal Justice Project holds inaugural symposium at King Hall

On Sept. 21, the Tribal Justice Project at the Aoki Center for Critical Race & Nation Studies held its first symposium, “Enhancing Sovereignty through Tribal Courts.” The event featured panelists from Alaska, Arizona, California and Utah, many of whom are tribal court judges.

The event began with a presentation by Professor Mary Louise Frampton, director of the Aoki Center, and Hon. Christine Williams , director of the Tribal Justice Project. William Sampson, student assistant to the chancellor, said an opening prayer honoring the Patwin people on whose land the law school sits.

The first panel discussed enforcement of tribal court orders - a very serious concern for many tribes. The second panel addressed the ways that tribes break from the westernized courts and incorporate their tribal traditions into the various courts’ rulings. This panel included perspectives from Alaska and California.

During the lunchtime panel, Judge William Thorne, who has served as a tribal and Utah appellate court judge, discussed the role of tribal courts, how they differ from state and federal courts, and their future. Judge Thorne will be the chief judge of the new California intertribal appellate court, which will be housed at the UC Davis School of Law starting in 2019.

The third panel brought in Alaskan perspectives on tribal justice, and allowed audience members to compare different styles of tribal courts from across the United States. The day’s final panel addressed Indian children and reclaiming jurisdiction over them in tribal courts.

UC Davis Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor of Law Raquel Aldana, School of Law Professor Kelly Behre, and Native American Studies department Student Affairs Officer Melinda Crow served as panel moderators.

Established in 2018, the Tribal Justice Project is a collaborative effort with California tribal judges, lawyers and leaders that seeks to enhance the capacity and sovereignty of tribes in California by providing culturally appropriate training for tribal judges and court personnel.