FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Native tribes will no longer be forced to go the extra mile to have their domestic violence restraining orders enforced by the state.
Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards issued a legal opinion stating that Alaska law conflicts with the federal Violence Against Women Act. The legal opinion has paved way for a direct link between tribal courts and state troopers.
The Alaska law requires tribal court-issued restraining orders to be registered with courts before they can be enforced. The legal opinion found that law was superseded by the Violence Against Woman Act, which states that protective orders issued by Alaska Native tribes, other tribes and governments do not need to be registered prior to enforcement.
Tanana Chiefs Conference President Victor Joseph said the decision will help curb domestic violence and empower tribes.
“This will no doubt add to the protection of our Native women and children in our villages,” he said. “It is one less step victims will have to take in order to get the protection from law enforcement that they deserve.”
Tribes have still been encouraged to register protection orders with the state court system.
“While not required for enforcement, registration of tribal and foreign protection orders helps officers to protect and serve the public,” the order explains.
The jurisdiction of tribal courts will likely remain an important issue this year as legislators and administrators continue to debate whether to grant tribes greater jurisdiction.
North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill has introduced a bill that would give tribal courts jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes. He argues that it will offer a better way to address problems in rural Alaska than the traditional court system.
“We have such a diversity in Alaska,” he said, “and if you can’t find a way to work in those diverse conditions, I think we’ve failed.”