Tribal judges who earn the Tribal Criminal Proceedings Enhancement Credential achieve a higher level of expertise, skill and knowledge in presiding over criminal proceedings where enhanced sentencing authority or enhanced jurisdictional authority are exercised.

The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (TLOA) amended the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (ICRA) to restore limited felony sentencing authority to tribes that meet certain criteria. TLOA authorizes tribes to impose felony sentences of up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a $15,000 fine per offense for a combined maximum sentence of nine years per criminal proceeding.

Title IX of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) amended ICRA to authorize special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction (SDVCJ) to tribal courts over non-Indian offenders who commit domestic violence, commit dating violence or violate a protection order.

Both TLOA and VAWA 2013 require that the judge imposing enhanced sentences or exercising SDVCJ has sufficient legal training to preside over criminal proceedings. Tribal judges who earn the Tribal Criminal Proceedings Enhancement achieve increased judicial proficiency, competency, skills and understanding in presiding over criminal proceedings.

Tribal Criminal Proceedings Enhancement Credential Requirements

  1. The Tribal Judicial Skills Certificate; and
  2. The following National Tribal Judicial Center courses:
    1. Advanced Tribal Bench Skills: Competence, Confidence and Control;
    2. Essential Skills for Tribal Court Judges; and
    3. Tribal Domestic Violence or Domestic Violence.

The Tribal Judicial Skills Certificate, an 8-week certificate program designed specifically for tribal judges, features four weeks of mandatory courses and four weeks of elective courses. The mandatory foundational courses include General Jurisdiction or Special Court Jurisdiction, and a combination of Essential Skills for Tribal Court Judges, Appellate Skills for Tribal Judges, Court Management for Tribal Court Judges and Personnel and, Logic and Opinion Writing. Participants can choose from a list of elective programs focusing on criminal, family law, problem-solving and skills-based courses.

The three required National Tribal Judicial Center courses will provide tribal judges with the skills and knowledge to competently and confidently preside over criminal proceedings. In these interactive courses, judges will participate in workshops on professionalism, ethics, the role of the judge, and techniques for presiding over fair and impartial trials. Each participant will preside over parts of a simulated trial and will be able to outline appropriate jurisdictional boundaries for criminal cases in Indian Country, rule effectively on the admissibility of testimonial and documentary evidence, and establish and maintain rules of court appropriate for tribal jurisdictions.

Testing Requirements

Following the attendance of the three additional required National Tribal Judicial Center courses, Tribal Criminal Proceedings Enhancement Credential candidates must successfully complete a take-home exam featuring short answer questions based on the materials from those courses prepared and assessed by National Tribal Judicial Center faculty.