Tribal Court Assistance Program

BJA’s Tribal Courts Assistance Program (TCAP) is one of the U.S. Department of  Justice’s primary initiatives for providing court-related support to tribal justice systems. Since fiscal year (FY) 1999, BJA has awarded 259 grants to federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native communities through a highly competitive process.

TCAP’s goal is to develop new tribal courts, improve the operations of existing tribal courts, and provide funding for technical assistance and training of tribal court staff. The objective in reaching this goal is to help tribal governments develop, enhance, and continue the operation of tribal judicial systems, including intertribal court systems.

Both onsite and offsite technical assistance and training is available to all grantees. Technical assistance also is provided to help grantees develop program goals and measure how well these goals are being met.

Funding for the Tribal Courts Assistance Program. There are three separate categories for which federally recognized tribes may apply:

Category I—Planning and Implementing an Intertribal Court System for Smaller Service Populations. Applications are sought from consortia of tribal governments (at least two per consortium), each of which serves a population of less than 1,000 people, to plan, develop, and implement a tribal court system where none currently exists. This category focuses on smaller tribes, located contiguous to or near other tribal governments, for which the creation of an intertribal court is economically and administratively feasible. Grant funds may be used to facilitate the development and initial implementation of an intertribal court system that will be designed to meet the needs of more than one tribe in the same geographic region.

Distances of several hundred miles separating tribes and rugged or inhospitable terrain can adversely affect the development of a collaborative partnership by making it logistically too difficult or economically unfeasible to establish an intertribal court. In these severe circumstances, and given that a tribal government can succinctly justify such hardships and incorporate this information into its application under the problem definition section of its program narrative (see Selection Criteria), such a tribe may apply as a single entity.

Category II—Planning and Implementing a Single-Tribe Court System. Applications are sought from tribal governments that serve a population equal to or greater than 1,000 people for the development and initial implementation of a tribal court that will meet their needs. Tribal governments may apply for grant funds to facilitate the development and initial implementation of a tribal court system where none currently exists.

Category III—Enhancing or Continuing the Operation of Tribal Courts. Applications are sought from tribal communities, regardless of the size of their service populations, to enhance or continue the operation of existing tribal courts. Initiatives may include, but are not limited to, establishing a core structure for a tribal court, improving case management, training court personnel, developing code, acquiring additional equipment and software, enhancing prosecution and indigent defense, supporting probation diversion and alternative sentencing programs, accessing services, focusing on juvenile services and multidisciplinary protocols for victims of child physical and sexual abuse, and structuring intertribal or tribal appellate systems.

Both onsite and offsite technical assistance and training are available to all grantees. Technical assistance also is provided to help grantees develop program goals and measure how well these goals are being met.

Program Accomplishments:

Throughout the Tribal Courts Assistance Program, BJA managers have interacted with and collected information from the field, departmental officials, and regional and national tribal courts advisory boards for the purpose of assessing program pitfalls and accomplishments, and recommending modifications. These actions have not only fostered the development of new partnerships but have helped BJA to meet the evolving needs of tribal justice systems and achieve higher customer satisfaction. Recent accomplishments follow:

Technical assistance has been restructured to provide better customer service. In order to maximize the delivery of technical assistance and training services, reduce overhead, and enhance managerial practices, the number of grants to providers was significantly reduced and a single organization was identified to coordinate activities in conjunction with BJA. Leading this effort is the Tribal Judicial Institute at the University of North Dakota School of Law, which is responsible for establishing a cadre of culturally relevant consultants; subcontracting select services; and planning and conducting a wide array of national, regional, and local venues. Its consortium of providers includes:

  • The National Tribal Judicial Center at The National Judicial College, Reno, NV;
  • Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, WI;
  • National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Louisville, CO;
  • Notre Dame Law School, South Bend, IN;
  • Native American Alliance Foundation, Albuquerque, NM;
  • Tribal Law and Policy Institute, CA;
  • National Tribal Justice Resource Center, Boulder, CO;
  • Oklahoma City University Law School, OK;
  • Native American Rights Fund, Boulder, CO;
  • Alaska Native Justice Center, Anchorage, AK.

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Tribal Court Assistance Program

BJA’s Tribal Courts Assistance Program (TCAP) is one of the U.S. Department of  Justice’s primary initiatives for providing court-related support to tribal justice systems. Since fiscal year (FY) 1999, BJA has awarded 259 grants to federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native communities through a highly competitive process. TCAP’s goal is to develop new tribal courts, improve the operations of existing tribal courts, and provide… more