By LACEY WHELAN
FORT HALL— Tribal attorney Monte Gray and Judicial Council member Diane Yupe conducted a public meeting April 12 to advise the public about the proposed changes to the current Judicial Council Ordinance to create a more independent judiciary.
The changes will delegate the authority of hiring, firing, discipline and training of Tribal Judges to the Judicial Council. The meeting was called to have the community voice their concerns or comments pertaining to the current changes of the Judicial Council Ordinance.
Previously, the Law and Order Commission took care of all the business involving the justice system, whether it was having to do with complaints against the courts, Fish and Game issues, and ultimately becoming a review board for the justice system. In 2010, the Fort Hall Business Council did away with the Law and Order Commission and came up with two other groups in place of it — the Citizens Review board and also the Judicial Council.
In 2010, John Traylor, a former Tribal Court administrator, was commissioned to do judicial work by the Tribal Courts, and also was appointed to start a revision to the 2010 Judicial Council Ordinance.
Traylor began revising the Judicial Council ordinance in 2014, with the current Judicial Council and received tips from the local judges to complete the revision. Traylor and the Judicial Council took the ordinance to the district meetings to present to the community as well as the Fort Hall Business Council. The Fort Hall Business Council then asked the tribal attorney’s office to get involved.
As of now, there is no one on the Judicial Council, because current Judicial Council’s terms ended on March 30. The Judicial Council consisted of Diane Yupe, Clyde Hall, and Howard Doore. Hall and Doore have been on the Judicial Council since 2014, while Yupe has served since 2015. Yupe said until the FHBC appoints a new board or extends the Judicial Council’s terms, there isn’t a Judicial Council to conduct business.
The changes to the ordinance are more in depth rules and regulations pertaining to the Tribal Courts as well as the employees as well as various other chapters touching base on different issues. The ordinance proposes to remove supervision of the Tribal Court judges from the FHBC. The upcoming changes are based on the ethics of the Judicial Council as well as the judges and to clarify duties and responsibilities to help administer justice in the Tribal Courts.
Yupe says many people in the community are not familiar with the justice system, but they expect to have justice, but also they need to know there is a process and place within certain restrictions that people should abide by. Yupe said the Judicial Council does not change the decisions made by the court, but does look at the behavior of the judges and see if the judges provided the parties with a fair judgment and also provide with the legal means that are available to them. The Judicial Council does not have authority over the court staff. The issues with the court staff will have to be forwarded to the Executive Director or the court administrator. Any issues having to do with the detention and corrections department must be taken up with the Citizens Review Board. Yupe also says they do like having an attorney available who works with the Judicial Council to help give legal advice on legal issues that the Judicial Council may see, and to provide any other assistance.
Once the Judicial Council Ordinance has a final approval from the Fort Hall Business Council, the ordinance will then be sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which then will have 90 days to see if this becomes law. Once it becomes law, the new Judicial Council will start implementing the new ordinance.
Yupe says she would like to see more of the community become familiar with the tribal law and judicial ordinance and be educated on it, so there are not any violations brought forth. The community needs to know their resources and options are available to them to make the justice system better.
She said comments to the revised ordinance haven’t been entered so it hasn’t yet been presented to the FHBC.