Innovative El Dorado County Joint-Jurisdictional Court Among First in Nation
PLACERVILLE--In the first joint jurisdictional court of its kind in the state, the Superior Court of El Dorado County and the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians on the Shingle Springs Rancheria will create a collaborative court for juvenile and family cases. Two judges, Hon. Christine Williams, Chief Judge of the Shingle Springs Tribal Court, and Hon. Suzanne N. Kingsbury, Presiding Judge of the Superior Court El Dorado County, will hear cases together and bring tribal and county services together for the benefit of children and families. The two judges have just received a national grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the federal Department of Justice to create this collaborative court. The effort was the only such grantee this year.
This tribal-state joint jurisdictional court will deal with cases involving child welfare, domestic violence, juveniles, and substance abuse affecting families. It will be located in courtrooms both on tribal lands and in downtown Placerville, about seven miles apart. The two judges will hear these cases together, alternating locations.
Judge Kingsbury said, “The Shingle Springs Tribal Court and the El Dorado Superior Court have worked collaboratively on several projects designed to improve outcomes for children and families who appear in our courts. Generally those projects have involved parallel court proceedings in two separate courts. This proposal allows us to, for the first time, offer one unified proceeding designed to address the issues which brought the children and families into the court system.”
Judge Williams said, “We believe this collaborative approach is the very best way to address the many-layered issues that bring Native families and children into court. By working together, we can intentionally break the cycle of long-standing systemic issues, give children a sense of Collaborate on Tribal Juvenile and Family Cases belonging and the tools to manage their lives, and enable them to make positive choices and be leaders in their community.”
Judges Williams and Kingsbury are members of the California Tribal Court-State Court Forum of the Judicial Council. The forum, created in 2010, makes recommendations for improving the administration of justice in all proceedings in which the exercise of jurisdiction by the state judicial branch and the tribal justice systems overlap.
The collaborative court will also serve as a model for other tribal and state court judges in California and nationally. The two judges will work with the California Administrative Office of the Courts and the Oregon-based Project TEAM so that their experience can be translated into materials that will help other jurisdictions develop their own joint court collaborations.