Chief Judge, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
Years on the Bench: 33 Years
J.D., University of New Mexico School of Law, 1983
Its challenging to educate others about who we are as native people. Our worldview is so different. The difference is reflected in how we view justice, which does not make us inferior.
We are superior in many ways because of our worldview and justice practices.We view “permanency” through the eyes of the child. We use problem-solving processes, not adversarial ones.We measure “outcomes” by very different measures; i.e. actual parental engagement; giving the child a voice; maintaining community connections for children in foster care; very frequent parenting time (visitation); and engaging, proactive efforts by service providers.In small communities, successful outcomes for even a single child or set of parents is significant.
When courts are developed from nothing but a dream, there are many challenges. Most strikingly, is the lack of judicial and legal infrastructure – everything including job descriptions, court forms, administrative orders, and court rules. Equally important is the challenge of developing respectful working relationships with government’s legislative and executive bodies. Equally critical is the need to develop the same kind of relationships with all the tribal administrators and tribal staff.