In 1968, the U.S. Congress essentially divested tribal courts of the right to hand down felony sentences. For forty-four years, those courts could sentence defendants to no more than a year in jail,hamstringing the efforts of tribal governments to punish and deter crime on their reservations. In 2012, however, four Indian tribal governments became the first to implement new sentencing powers under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (the TLOA or the Act). Enacted at the urging of tribal leaders, the TLOA allowed tribal courts to sentence offenders to up to three years for any individual offense and up to nine years in any single proceeding.
The new sentencing powers, however, come with certain strings attached—requirements to which the tribal courts must adhere, framed as a series of protections for defendants facing longer sentences. For example, courts exercising the sentencing powers must provide defense counsel for the indigent, law-trained judges, and defendants with a record of the proceedings. These requirements add significantly to the cost of operating a tribal justice system, and they force tribal courts to give up some of their independence and cultural distinctiveness. More problematic still, tribal governments that either cannot or will not abide by the Act’s requirements actually lose sentencing powers that they may have previously exercised. This is because some courts, to deal with the most serious offenders, have stacked short sentences for separate charges to create total sentences longer than one year. The Act now prohibits that workaround.
Part I of this Essay presents the limitations on tribal court sentencing prior to the passage of the Act and discusses sentence stacking. Part II briefly diagrams the Act’s sentencing provisions and the procedural requirements imposed on tribes that wish to use them. I show that the statute cuts off the tribal courts’ workaround even if they do not adopt the Act’s sentencing powers. Part III discusses the two chief reasons why tribal governments may not meet the Act’s stringent requirements: lack of funding and a desire to maintain a more traditional or otherwise distinctive approach to justice. The cumulative effect of these factors is to sort tribes into two categories—those who are positioned to take advantage of the greater sentencing powers offered by the Act, and the great majority of tribes that will now have even less sentencing authority than they did before.
I. “Something Is Seriously Wrong . . .”: Context Leading to the Act’s Passage
The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the ICRA) limited tribal sentences to six months’ imprisonment and not more than $500 in fines “for conviction of any 1 offense.” In 1986 this was amended to allow sentences of up to one year and up to $5000 in fines.
Such a radical curtailment of the tribes’ inherent right to punish was premised on the notion that the federal government would take responsibility for prosecuting many—if not most—serious crimes in Indian country. But federal investigation and prosecution of crime in Indian country has fallen far short of the mark, in part because of logistical difficulties. Federal courthouses, FBI field offices, and U.S. Attorneys’ offices are often hundreds of miles from the site of an on-reservation crime, which means it may be difficult to interview witnesses or to bring them to court to testify. And prosecution of ordinary crime in Indian country has often been seen as low-status work for federal prosecutors. Indeed, expending resources on Indian country justice may even hurt federal prosecutors’ careers. The result is that crimes that do not fall within the usual federal law enforcement mission tend to be wildly underinvestigated and underprosecuted.
Given all of this, it is no surprise that the Navajo Supreme Court has said that “Indian nations cannot rely upon others to address” crime in Indian country. But, as noted above, the ICRA drastically limits the kinds of sentences a tribal court may impose. The ICRA’s maximum prison sentence of one year means that essentially all tribally defined and tribally prosecuted crimes are misdemeanors—even murder, rape, kidnapping, and robbery. Thus constrained, some tribes have engaged in sentence stacking, the imposition of multiple one-year sentences for various charges arising from the same incident. For example, a defendant who held his spouse down and beat her might receive a one-year sentence for domestic abuse, another year for battery, and a third for false imprisonment.
Is stacking lawful under the ICRA? The statute limits the sentence imposed for “any 1 offense” to not more than one year. But did Congress intend for tribal courts to be able to apply multiple charges to a given criminal incident? Or did it intend a maximum sentence of one year for the entire incident? Federal courts have heard habeas challenges on this very point.
Consider the 2010 case Romero v. Goodrich, in which petitioner Ronald Romero reportedly refused to leave his mother’s house, “yelled profanities,” spit in someone’s face, “threatened to kill everyone in the house,” shoved a recliner chair into his mother, swung a punch at her (almost hitting someone else), rampaged through the house breaking things, prevented the occupants from leaving or calling the police, pinned one girl against the refrigerator, and threatened to burn the house down. The tribal court found Romero guilty on twelve separate counts, including assault, battery, and false imprisonment; he was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison and fined $7050.
Noting that Romero was not represented by counsel at trial, a New Mexico federal magistrate judge declared that such stacking of sentences violates the intent of the ICRA provision. But the case was later rendered moot when the Pueblo commuted the sentence, and generally the trend prior to the TLOA seems to have been toward finding stacking permissible. A Minnesota federal district court and the Ninth Circuit both affirmed judgments involving stacking, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari on the issue.
Against this background, the TLOA was signed into law on July 29, 2010. It allowed for up to three-year sentences for individual offenses. In hearings, Marcus Levings, Great Plains Area Vice-President of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, noted the lack of federal prosecutions—“Something is seriously wrong with the Federal law enforcement response.” He also shared the story of his own daughter’s experience with sexual assault on Fort Berthold.
Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli said that tribal leaders had made clear to the DOJ that “tribal sovereignty and self-determination should be central [and] . . . solutions developed by the tribes themselves will best effect change.” It was his opinion that the bill enjoyed “strong support . . . from the tribes.”
The TLOA raised eyebrows in some quarters, though. The chief concern was that constitutional and procedural protections taken for granted in most American courtrooms are not necessarily available in tribal courts. For example, individual protections in the Bill of Rights do not apply to Indians in Indian country, except as provided for statutorily in the ICRA. And tribes often cannot afford to provide all the procedural machinery available in other courts.
Tova Indritz, speaking for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Professor Barbara L. Creel, a member of the Pueblo of Jemez, argued that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel ought to apply to “Native Americans, who are, after all, U.S. citizens.” They called on Congress to “authorize funds for appointed counsel in tribal prosecutions” and called for “balancing distribution of resources among the judges, the prosecutors, and defender services.”
Indritz also asked that Congress require defense counsel in tribal courts to be attorneys admitted to the bar of at least one state or the District of Columbia, to require that tribal judges be licensed attorneys, and to put an end to sentence stacking.
II. “Competence and Professional Responsibility”:
The Act and Its Provisions
As finally passed, the TLOA allows tribes to impose somewhat lengthier sentences in exchange for providing certain protections to defendants who are subject to such sentencing. These provisions can be summarized as follows:
(1) The defendant may be sentenced to a maximum of three years for any one offense and a maximum of nine years total in any given court proceeding.
(2) The defendant must have already been convicted of the same or a comparable offense by any court in U.S. jurisdiction, or be accused of a crime that is comparable to a felony under federal or state law.
(3) The defendant is entitled to effective assistance of counsel at least equivalent to that guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If the defendant is indigent, an “attorney,” licensed by a jurisdiction whose standards ensure “competence and professional responsibility,” must be provided at the tribe’s expense.
(4) The presiding judge must have “sufficient legal training to preside over criminal proceedings” and be licensed to practice law.
(5) The tribe’s laws must have been made publicly available prior to the defendant being charged.
(6) The proceedings must be recorded.
(7) If convicted, the defendant may be housed only in “tribal correctional facilities” approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for longterm incarceration, federal prison, state prison, or an “alternative rehabilitation center” operated by the tribe.
These requirements are important not only in their own right but also because they are tied to the way Congress chose to resolve the stacking question. 25 U.S.C. § 1302(e) now defines the previously ambiguous term “offense” to mean “a violation of a criminal law.” This seems to definitively eliminate the “criminal transaction” interpretation, and thus the statute might appear to allow stacking.
Section 1302(c), however, mandates that the requirements of that section (indigent counsel, law-trained judges, and so on) shall be met in any “criminal proceeding in which an Indian tribe . . . imposes a total term of imprisonment of more than 1 year on a defendant.” So even tribal courts that are not exercising the new sentencing powers—that is, those not attempting to impose sentences of more than a year for individual charges—are bound by their prerequisites. This effectively forecloses stacking—even of shorter sentences—for tribes that have not met the requirements. Indeed, a federal district court in Arizona has already ruled that the TLOA requirements were binding on a tribal court that sentenced a defendant to two 365-day sentences.
III. “I Don’t Think We Need to be Law-Trained”: Funding, Tribal Sovereignty, and TLOA’s Harsh Demand
There are at least two significant reasons why tribes may not meet the TLOA’s requirements: lack of funding and a desire to maintain a fundamentally different approach to criminal law and social problem solving.
The TLOA does take some steps to provide funding for tribes to meet its requirements. It amends the statute regulating the federal Legal Services Corporation to allow the organization to provide grants for defense services for defendants in tribal courts. It clarifies that grants for legal assistance under 25 U.S.C. § 3663 should be used for criminal defense counsel. It amends a general grant of money for tribal justice development to include salaries for public defenders and appointed defense counsel, among other “tribal court personnel.” It also requires the newly-created Office of Justice Services (OJS) within the BIA to submit reports to Congress of the number of tribal public defenders, how much OJS spends on indigent defense, and any unmet needs for funding, including for indigent defense.
But compare these small expansions to the large block grants in the TLOA for research and education in drug enforcement, grants to hire and train law enforcement officers, grants to build jails, grants for delinquency prevention, and grants to improve information sharing systems between law enforcement agencies, and it becomes apparent that providing tribes with the resources to meet the Act’s requirements was not a high priority for Congress. Much of the focus of the TLOA, naturally, is on crime prevention and law enforcement. But along with those two elements, sentencing is the third leg in the TLOA scheme. And because the Act makes indigent defense counsel such a critical component of felony sentencing powers, Congress should provide adequate funding to make it a reality.
Even the funding that is available is often inefficiently distributed. Evidence is strong that tribes either do not know money is available or are using nominally available funds for other purposes. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) explains: “Both BIA and DOJ provide funding that tribes could use to help meet the necessary requirements for exercising the new sentencing authority . . . . In addition, DOJ and BIA provide training and other assistance to tribes, which could assist them in exercising the new sentencing authority.” But “tribes do not always have a clear understanding about their eligibility for federal funding sources available to help them exercise the new sentencing authority.” This may be because, unlike, say, the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services program, which provides funds for community policing, there is no single, well-defined funding program devoted exclusively to helping tribal courts meet the TLOA’s requirements.
Moreover, as Judge Pouley notes, “while the Act gives tribal courts the responsibilities and requirements of its state and federal counterparts, one thing has not changed—there has been no increase in base funding for tribal courts.” Without an increase in overall funding, tribes are forced to choose between shortchanging other programs in order to meet the TLOA’s requirements and forgoing felony sentencing powers altogether.
Of course, some tribes may find creative ways to meet the requirements. The Tulalip Tribes, for example, have partnered with a clinic at the University of Washington Law School to provide its indigent defendants with counsel. But such programs, though admirable, are not universally available. Moreover, the evidence suggests that even creative solutions take many years and significant resources to implement. Significantly, both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Tulalip were already offering the procedural protections mandated by the TLOA long before the Act was passed, so these tribes could move quickly to implement the new sentencing power.
Conversely, the GAO has found that tribes that did not already offer such protections are taking longer to use their new authority and facing more obstacles. In its 2012 report on the TLOA, the GAO found that “64 percent of selected tribes (70 of 109) reported implementing at least half of the requirements necessary for exercising the new sentencing authority, but reported challenges in implementing other requirements.” Unsurprisingly, the least costly requirement—maintaining a record of the proceedings—was the one tribes had most frequently already met, while they were least likely to have met the requirement of competent defense counsel for the indigent. This suggests that tribes that did not have the resources to provide indigent defense counsel before the TLOA’s passage still lack those resources after it.
In the long term, of course, development of tribal courts need not—and indeed should not—depend solely on federal appropriations. Likely, the development of tribal court capacity will go hand-in-hand with sustained tribal economic development. Tulalip, for example, benefited from the Indian gaming wave; gaming provided the income that enabled the tribe to develop a mature justice system. But Judge Pouley, who works at Tulalip, does not consider gaming among the “reliable revenue sources that traditionally fund government justice systems.” Congress can work to enhance more reliable (nongaming) sources of revenue by, for example, liberalizing rules related to tribal enterprises and the use of tribal resources in promising areas like sustainable energy development. But such development can take years, if not decades. In the meantime, hundreds of tribes lack adequate felony sentencing powers.
B. Tribal Sovereignty and the Right to Culturally-Specific Justice Systems
Some tribal governments, however, may be reluctant to try to meet the TLOA’s requirements for reasons beyond the perpetual funding crisis. Tribal governments, whose mandate often includes the maintenance of ways of life that predate the Constitution, have been understood as having substantial leeway to arrange the organs of governance in ways forbidden to states and the federal government. The cultivation of traditional and quasi-traditional legal systems is one aspect of that mandate.
Prior to the passage of the TLOA, many tribal courts allowed lay advocates to act as defense counsel, even in criminal cases. Lay advocates have certainly filled a practical need in Indian country where “law-trained” defense attorneys may be in short supply. But their use raises anxieties in the non-Indian defense bar: “[S]ome tribal bars allow people to be a member of the bar who have not graduated from law school and maybe not even graduated from high school.” Accordingly, the TLOA likely bans lay advocates in criminal cases. It requires that the tribe provide indigent defendants with “a defense attorney licensed to practice law by any jurisdiction in the United States that applies appropriate professional licensing standards and effectively ensures the competence and professional responsibility of its licensed attorneys.” These terms are not defined by the statute, but it is likely that federal courts hearing habeas petitions will read this requirement as eliminating nonlawyers from the criminal defense bar, at least where indigent defendants are concerned.
Yet in a court setting informed by tribal customary law, some lay advocates may be more effective litigators than a law school graduate who is well grounded in Anglo-American criminal justice theory. The Navajo Nation’s statutory code, for instance, appears very American, but it uses a parallel set of customary principles—the Navajo Common Law—to guide decisions interpreting and enforcing that code. Despite its name, the Navajo Common Law does not map neatly onto the American precedential system. Indeed, Raymond Darrel Austin has argued that the Navajo Common Law is used by judges to “counter the imbalance in Navajo Nation law; the result of an over-reliance on American law” by non-Indian code drafters. And its principles are infused with Navajo concepts of interlocking spiritual relationships among the community members and with the world at large. The book explaining the Navajo Common Law published by the Navajo courts is adorned, on the first page, by a complex diagram of various planes of existence in Navajo cosmology, and the interior text refers more to spiritual principles and traditional relationships than to what American lawyers would recognize as legal rules or doctrinal principles.
This difference in approach translates into meaningful differences in legal outcomes in areas ranging from child custody and parental rights to criminal jurisdiction to the abrogation of criminal sentencing. This reliance on a culturally specific framework is not limited to the Navajo courts—other tribal courts similarly employ the spiritual and philosophical views of their society to reach decisions on questions as weighty as the reasonableness of police stops and whether a facially discriminatory statute denies equal protection under the law. Given all of this, would it be surprising if an American-educated lawyer without knowledge of Navajo (or other tribal) culture ended up somewhat lost at sea in tribal court, while an experienced lay advocate could in fact obtain a favorable result for his client?
This is not to say that a criminal defense attorney will never be useful in a tribal court. Indeed, the Navajo Nation requires members of its bar to pass a Navajo-specific examination, which probably reduces the likelihood that a licensed lawyer would walk into a Navajo court knowing nothing about Navajo common law. But pushing tribal courts to employ only defense counsel trained by ABA-approved law schools will almost certainly tend to marginalize arguments rooted in culturally specific law in favor of those rooted in Anglo-American thought. And even if tribal courts are able to resist such pressures, such a policy ignores the fact that knowledgeable lay advocates may offer real advantages to their clients in a criminal court that applies traditional tribal principles to its legal decisionmaking.
In fact, this may be especially true in a system like the Navajo courts, where even criminal cases may be diverted to a nonadversarial “peacemaking” process. While a lawyer would likely focus on winning the case, a lay advocate might perceive that it could be in her client’s best interest to enter the peacemaking system instead. Even more to the point, a lay advocate might recognize that diversion could also be in the best interest of peaceful relationships within the community—which is to say that a lay advocate might be capable of channeling Navajo values rather than the values of the Anglo-American bar.
Of course, the TLOA allows for “any jurisdiction” to license attorneys, so it is possible that tribes could simply license lay advocates as attorneys—perhaps upon the completion of an exam. But the statute requires that the licensing program apply “appropriate professional licensing standards” and “effectively ensure . . . competence and professional responsibility.” Who interprets those provisions? During habeas proceedings, a federal court can interpret the ICRA and the TLOA according to its own lights.
Unfortunately, we can likely expect a strong cognitive bias on the part of federal judges in favor of a traditional American definition of lawyerly competence and against unfamiliar definitions arising from tribal law. Anxiety about the exercise of sovereign power by tribal governments repeatedly taints federal Indian law, starting at least with the angry public reaction in the 1880s to Ex parte Crow Dog, which held that Indians could not be tried in federal court for intratribal crimes. Supreme Court justices, sometimes writing for the majority, have repeatedly flirted with the idea that tribes are not sovereign at all, especially in the exercise of criminal jurisdiction. They also continue to use language and invoke imagery suggesting at least past, if not implicitly present, savagery on the part of Indian tribes. And in the Ninth Circuit, at least, tribal court decisions are not given the “full faith and credit” that state court decisions would be, but are reviewed under the freer standard of “comity.” Given all of this, B.J. Jones has suggested that tribal judges are under enormous pressure to make tribal justice look more “anglo,” so that it will be recognized and accepted by federal judges.
Thus, it seems likely that federal courts will be more comfortable with (and so tribal governments will feel pressured to provide) “attorneys” that look and act like attorneys in the U.S. system. Indeed, at least one district court has already ruled, in U.S. v. Alone, that the TLOA does not, of its own force, elevate lay advocates to the level of “licensed attorneys,” but rather draws a clear distinction between them. That determination is not wrongheaded in light of the legislative history discussed in Part I and in light of the fact that tribal members often choose lay advocates more for their knowledge of tribal law than for their qualifications in the American criminal justice system. But the clear purpose of § 1302(c)(2) is to provide defendants with competent representation, and as described, a lay advocate may at times be just the person to provide such representation. If a tribe created a licensing scheme and called its advocates attorneys even if they had not attended law school, would a federal court examine the system to see whether those advocates provided competent representation within the tribe’s own justice scheme? Or would the court scrutinize such a system only within the narrow confines of its own understanding of legal competence?
Many tribes have also deliberately created justice systems that involve the active participation of elders or other lay judges. Indeed, some judges in Indian country feel that legal training is not necessary for many of the roles a tribal judge is called on to play. In the words of Judge David Raasch of Stockbridge-Munsee, “I think tribal judges are more problem-solvers than, say, state judges. I don’t think we have to be law-trained to be problem-solvers. I don’t think we have to be law-trained to be healers. I don’t think we have to be law-trained to administer justice or provide due process.”
The idea of non-law-trained judges being able to effectively provide due process is likely to be met with skepticism in the nontribal legal community. Yet the skepticism runs both ways. An Oglala Sioux court put it succinctly: “It should not have to be for the Congress of the United States . . . to tell us when to give due process. Due process is a concept that has always been with us. . . . [It] means nothing more than being fair and honest in our dealings with each other.”
This does not, of course, mean that Indian tribal governments will reach the same conclusions as the U.S. federal courts or even Congress about how best to ensure that a judge is fair and honest. During discussions with Congress about the scope of the ICRA, for example, one representative of the Navajo Nation stated that it was “difficult for Navajos to participate in a system where fairness required the judge to have no prior knowledge of the case.” In the Navajo view of things, the overarching policy goal of promoting social harmony demands that factfinders have an intimate understanding of the needs of the parties and their social relationships. And William Zuger, a tribal court judge, has pointed out that tribal courts, like any other judiciary, are checked by democratic safeguards: The judge is under pressure to make sure her decisions are “accepted as fair and equitable” by the community. In a tribal context, however, this means that the court must “remain culturally responsive to its constituents.”
Congress, in drafting the TLOA, appears to have understood this principle, at least when it comes to judges, and provided a somewhat flexible statutory standard: Judges need only have “sufficient legal training to preside over criminal proceedings.” But here again, such an undefined standard subjects tribal judges to having their qualifications scrutinized by federal district court judges in habeas proceedings. Federal judges will often be unfamiliar with the culturally specific values informing the tribal government’s choice to use elders or lay judges. And as professional lawyers trained in the modern American system, federal judges may recoil from the idea that nonlawyers could justly adjudicate criminal cases. Thus, in striving for flexibility, Congress may have inadvertently opened the door to inflexible federal court interpretations.
3. The Larger Stakes
Sentencing power in the tribal context is not always used to incarcerate. Indeed, for some tribes, a great increase in the number of incarcerated citizens would create huge logistical problems. State governments may spend “over 70 percent of their general fund resources on law and justice expenses, and jails are the largest line item in that budget. Few Tribes will be willing or able to divert those types of resources from funding sources desperately needed for housing, education, and healthcare.” The GAO confirms this: “Officials . . . reported that they do not have adequate detention space to house offenders convicted in tribal courts and may face overcrowding at tribal detention facilities.”
But not every sentenced felony offender need be incarcerated. Sometimes, the mere threat of prison time can be used as leverage to achieve socially desirable results. As Judge Pouley explains: “Tulalip Court . . . suspends most jail time to insure a client [will] comply with the services required by the Court . . . [such as] chemical dependence and mental health evaluations . . . [and] classes appropriate to the crime (i.e. theft awareness or victims impact panels or domestic violence treatment).” The court can also monitor offenders to ensure they “abstain from the use of alcohol or illegal drugs, continue working on their education and/or employment, obtain proper licensing and complete community service.” Judge Pouley adds that even in the rare pre-TLOA cases in which she likely would have imposed longer sentences if they had been available, “the longer sentencing would have allowed me to properly balance the needed jail time with the needed after jail supervision.”
This kind of careful intervention can reduce crime. After instituting its own unique set of programs, Tulalip reported a steep drop in crime, from 1172 criminal filings in 2003 to just 493 in 2006 and 571 in 2007. Indeed, so striking was Tulalip’s success that the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development selected Tulalip’s Alternative Sentencing Program as one of its 2006 “Honoring Nations” honorees, explaining that by helping “offenders to recover rather than just ‘throwing them away,’ the Tulalip Tribal Court Alternative Sentencing Program supports efforts to establish a crime free community.”
Of course, programs like drug and alcohol treatment and domestic abuse counseling are not necessarily a traditional part of tribal law. Nonetheless, there are two reasons to think they fall within the ambit of tribal governments’ cultural protection mandate. First, they may reflect traditional values, in that traditional tribal legal systems often sought to repair the social breach and provide restitution first, and were only secondarily concerned with punishment for its own sake. Second, tribes’ sovereignty over their own criminal procedure is important precisely because it encourages experimentation with new methods of enforcement that are effective for a particular tribal society in its own historical and cultural context. Tulalip’s example shows just how effective the exercise of that freedom can be. But without the leverage offered by longer sentences, tribes may find it difficult to make such programs work.
Moreover, the recent statutory reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) raises the stakes even further. VAWA authorizes tribes to exercise jurisdiction over non-Indians for the first time since the Supreme Court’s controversial decision eliminating that jurisdiction in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe—albeit, for now, in only a limited class of domestic violence cases. On reservations with significant non-Indian populations, the Oliphant rule has resulted in a near-anarchic lack of law enforcement and prosecution. The expansion of even partial jurisdiction over non-Indians therefore represents a huge leap forward in the ability of tribal governments to protect their constituents. But there are familiar strings attached—tribes that wish to exercise VAWA’s new jurisdictional powers over non-Indians in domestic violence cases must also meet the TLOA’s due process requirements.
For tribes that can afford to meet its requirements, the TLOA offers genuine opportunities for greater sovereignty and self-determination. The expense of meeting those requirements, however, and the pressure the requirements put on tribes to make their court systems look more stereotypically American, bar many tribes from reaping the Act’s benefits. Indeed, the Act may actually make it harder for many tribes to control crime on their reservations by removing the one mechanism (sentence stacking) by which they had previously been able to impose serious punishments.
In short, although Congress has in recent years undertaken to expand the criminal enforcement powers of tribal governments significantly, it may be that the TLOA unintentionally sorts tribes into two tiers. Richer and more assimilated tribes will be able to effectively deter reservation crime, while poorer and more traditional tribes are now less able to do so than they were before. Without better funding mechanisms and, likely, some statutory revision, the Act unfortunately does not meet its goal of helping tribal courts become more equal partners in the American justice system.