To advance tribal sovereignty through tribal court education.
The Field of Tribal Courts (FOTC) promotes tribal court education to learners across jurisdictions and offers consulting services in tribal court administration and development to tribal communities throughout the nation.
The FOTC aims to provide quality court education for tribal court personnel, groups outside of tribal court, and community members who want to be trained to work in tribal courts as tribal court personnel.
The FOTC offers guidance and assistance tailored to tribes to fit their unique court development needs.
Jennifer R. Leal is a descendant from the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and Mono Lake Paiute tribal communities. She started her tribal court career as a tribal court administrator at her tribe’s court, the Washoe Tribal Court. From 2007 – 2012, she developed experience processing criminal, general civil, family law, dependency, juvenile delinquency, traffic, animal control cases and ICWA transfer cases. Her court record includes clerking over 2,000 hearings and 30 jury trials. She worked with several tribal court-related offices such as adult probation, juvenile probation, domestic violence, social services, truancy, and tribal law enforcement. She also worked with court-appointed public defenders and new attorneys who appeared in tribal court for the first time. The tribal court exercised jurisdiction across two states. She found building partnerships was important to the role of operating the court and created working relationships with other tribal courts in both California and Nevada, local jurisdictions, and with a state court personnel association.
Jennifer contributed to California’s Court Toolkit for Tribal/State/Federal Administrators and Clerks, had the privilege to work and teach at national tribal court education programs, and co-presented at the National American Indian Court Judges’ Association in 2018 and 2019. She received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in American Indian Studies from UCLA.
Her experience as a tribal court administrator combined with challenges facing tribal courts today served as her inspiration to develop the Field of Tribal Courts.