The Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians is starting a federal court system, and is hoping the community will become involved in the open court.
Lori Bear, chairwoman of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, said although the band has had a tribal court system, the group has not before had a Court of Indian Offenses.
The two courts differ in that a tribal court enforces tribal law, while a Court of Indian Offenses, commonly known as a CFR Court, can enforce tribal, federal and, where applicable, state laws.
“In any community, a court system is absolutely necessary to a safe and healthy community,” said Bear. “Unfortunately, in the past, the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians has never had a court system, i.e. a neutral forum for disputes to be heard, or crimes to be prosecuted. It was absolutely necessary that we establish a court system for the health and safety of everyone living on the reservation.”
The first meeting of the CFR Court is at 1 p.m. this Saturday at the Tribal Justice Center on the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indian Reservation. It is open to the public.
To hold the court, a federal judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys will go to the reservation to hear disputes and enforce tribal and federal laws within the reservation, Bear said. Having the CFR Court is a means of ensuring the federal government fulfills its trust responsibility to provide court and law enforcement services.
The court also will allow a more cohesive judicial system in Tooele County, she said, and seal up “jurisdictional loop holes” that existed in the gaps between Tooele County and the band’s respective responsibilities.
While members of the band will be most acutely affected by the CFR Court, it will also impact people not of the band but who break the law on reservation ground, such as speeding, said Bear.
Bear said the band has been working closely with county, state and federal officials to work out questions of jurisdiction, prosecution, investigation and deputization. The goal of encouraging people to come to the meetings is to have a forum to answer the inevitable questions with this new court.
“This open meeting is a big step forward that we could not have taken without reaching out to state and federal officials,” she said. “This meeting will bring everyone together to educate the community and ensure things run smoothly.”