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How Does The California Tribal Court Work?

The California Tribal Courts provide legal services and technical assistance to local courts on inter-jurisdictional issues across all case types and assist with developing policies, positions, and programs to ensure the highest quality of justice and service to the Native American communities in California.

According to the latest census data, California has a higher number of persons of Native American/Alaska Native heritage in rural and urban areas than any other state. Approximately, there are 110 federally recognized tribes in the state and 78 other communities imploring the government for recognition. Federally acclaimed tribes have a unique government to government relationships with local, state, and federal entities. Hence, they are recognized as sovereign nations. Tribes may create their own laws, governmental hierarchy, and enrollment of membership rules for the land and citizens of their nations.

California tribal courts vary greatly in their application of tribal laws. Some tribal courts operate a western-style court system in that they apply written statutes and court procedures. Other tribal courts adopt a traditional Native means of resolving disputes, such as peacemaking, sentencing circles, and elders’ council. Some California tribal courts even adopt both types of court styles. There are a few Courts of Indian Offenses known as CFR courts instituted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These courts operate for the benefits of tribes that do not have their own tribal court.

California tribal courts handle over 30 types of cases. These include:

Civil/Probate

  • Civil complaints about monetary damages/Small claims
  • Civil disputes
  • Conservator issues
  • Contract disputes
  • Dog/Animal control
  • Evictions/land disputes/possession of tribal lands
  • Game fish and wildlife management
  • Housing matters (unlawful detainer)
  • Name & birth certificate changes
  • Probate

Administrative

  • Building codes
  • Elections
  • Employment
  • Enrollment
  • Administrative procedures matters
  • Appeals from tribal ordinances

Criminal

  • Criminal offenses
  • Environmental offenses
  • Peace/security code violations
  • Nuisance
  • Torts
  • Traffic
  • Trespass

Family Law

  • Dissolution of marriage
  • Domestic relations
  • Domestic violence restraining orders
  • Protection/Restraining orders

Juvenile

  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Juvenile wellness court
  • Truancy
  • Child abuse and neglect guardianships

Note that an individual court may not handle all the types of cases listed above.

Under the law, reservations, rancherias, and other federal trust lands held for the benefit of Indian people and tribes in California are termed “Indian Country”. Although tribal courts have general jurisdiction and a broadening criminal jurisdiction, the general rule is that states in the United States have no jurisdiction over the activities of Indians and other tribes in Indian country. However, Public Law 280 (PL 280) established an exception to this rule in some states. The Congress of the United States gave six states, including California, criminal jurisdiction over all offenses involving Native Americans on tribal lands. Through PL 280, the state and tribal courts now share jurisdictions in many areas. Created in 2010, the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) guides the policies and operations of the tribal courts. Some of the major provisions of the TLOA include:

  • The requirement of greater accountability and coordination between federal and tribal justice authorities; for instance, the filing of annual disposition reports by federal prosecutors. The Act also establishes the Office of Tribal Justice within the Department of Justice to provide contact with tribal agencies and technical assistance.
  • The Act allows tribal authorities to impose increased penalties under some circumstances (up to three years imprisonments and fines of $15,000 per offense)
  • Tribes in PL 280 states like California are permitted to petition the Attorney General to reassert federal jurisdiction in tribal areas.
  • The Act authorizes funding and grant opportunities across most tribal justice areas, including support and training for data collection, data sharing, and reporting.

Locations of the Tribal Courts in California are listed below:

Bishop Paiute Indian Tribal Court
50 Tu Su Lane
Bishop, California 93514
Phone: (760) 873–3584
E-mail: joyce.alvey@bishoppaiute.org

Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Court
Blue Lake Rancheria
428 Charin Road
Blue Lake, CA 95525
Phone: (707) 668–5101
Fax: (707) 668–4272
E-mail: courtclerk@bluelakerancheria-nsn.gov

Chemehuevi Indian Tribal Court
1990 Palo Verde Drive
Havasu Lake, California 92363
Phone: (760) 858–4219
Fax: (760) 858–5120
E-mail: court@cit-nsn.gov

Fort Mojave Tribal Court
8492 South Highway 95
Mohave Valley, Arizona 86440
Phone: (928) 346–5293
Fax: (928) 346–5287

Hoopa Valley Tribal Court
Chief Judge—Hon. Leona Colgrove
P.O. Box 1389
Hoopa, California 95546
Phone: (530) 625–4305
Fax: (530) 625–4307

Intertribal Court of California
Chief Judge: Raquelle Myers.
5250 Aero Drive
Santa Rosa, California 95403
Phone: (707) 579–5507 or (800) 966–0662 (toll free)
Fax: (707) 579–9019
E-mail: nijc@aol.com

Intertribal Court of Southern California
49002 Golsh Road,
Valley Center, California 92082
Phone: (760) 751–4142
Fax: (760) 751–3078
E-mail: tribalcourt@sciljc.org

Karuk Tribal Court
1836 Apsuun,
P.O. Box 629, Yreka,
California 96097
Phone: (530) 842–9228
E-mail: aattebury@karuk.us

Morongo Tribal Court
12700 Pumarra Road,
Banning, California 92220
Phone: (951) 572–6068
Fax: (951) 572–6075
E-mail: vvasquez@morango-nsn.gov

Northern California Intertribal Court System
3000 Shanel Rd.,
Hopland CA, 95449
E-mail: courtclerk@tribalcourt.org

Northern California Tribal Court Coalition
P.O. Box 466
Talent, OR 97540
Phone: (530) 575–5818
E-mail: sdolan@nctcc.org

Quechan Tribal Court
450 Quechan Drive,
Winterhaven, CA 92283
Phone: (760) 572–5552
E-mail: tribal.court@quechantribe.com

Round Valley Indian Tribes Tribal Court
Tribal Court, 77826 Covelo Road,
Covelo, California 95428
Phone: (707) 983–8227
Fax: (707) 983–6590
E-mail: clerk@courts.rvit.org

Redding Rancheria Tribal Court
2000 Redding Rancheria Road
Redding, California 96001
Phone: (530) 225–8979
Fax: (530) 241–1879

San Manuel Tribal Court
San Manuel Indian Reservation
3214 Victoria Avenue
Highland, California 92346
Phone: (909) 907–6920
Fax: (909) 425–1894
E-mail: tribalcourtfilings@sanmanuel.com

Shingle Springs Rancheria Tribal Court
5281 Honpie Road
Placerville, CA 95667
Phone: (530) 698–1400
Fax: (530) 676–8033
E-mail: cgallegos@ssband.org

Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation
110 First Street, Suite B
Smith River, CA 95567
Phone: (707) 487–6425
Fax: (888) 468–8221
E-mail: tdn.tribalcourt@tolowa.com

Washoe Tribal Court
919 U.S. Highway 395 South
Gardnerville, Nevada 89410
Phone: (775) 265–7024 x 1252
Fax: (775) 265–0258

Yurok Tribal Court
230 Klamath Boulevard,
Klamath CA 95548
Phone: (707) 482–1350
Fax: (707) 482–0105
E-mail: jburgess@yuroktribe.nsn.us

 

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