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Tribal Community Prosecutors Receive Federal Cross-Commissioning

November 17, 2011
This post is part a series highlighting the department's work with tribes in honor of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. For more information visit justice.gov/tribal. Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona held a week-long course to train prosecutors from several of Arizona’s tribal governments so they may participate in the federal prosecution of offenders from their communities.   The training kicks off the U.S. Attorney’s Office -Tribal Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) program.  This cross-commissioning is encouraged by the Tribal Law and Order Act and mandated by the District of Arizona’s Operational Plan for Public Safety in Indian Country. Attorney General Holder has identified building and sustaining safe and secure tribal communities as one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities.  In June of 2009, the department launched a wide-ranging initiative to strengthen public safety in Indian Country and since that time, the department has taken a number of steps to deepen its commitment to tribal communities and to develop more effective partnership with tribal leaders, police, prosecutors, courts and advocates to combat crime in tribal communities.  The federal cross-commissioning of tribal prosecutors through the Tribal SAUSA program is just one way that U.S. Attorney’s Offices with Indian country jurisdiction are playing a crucial role in carrying out the department’s strategy through their own operational plans.  The goal of the Tribal SAUSA program is to train eligible tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable criminal offense is prosecuted in tribal court, federal court or both.  The program also allows the tribal prosecutors to serve as co-counsel with federal prosecutors on felony investigations and prosecutions of offenses arising out of their respective tribal communities. After completing training, each tribal SAUSA will be assigned an experienced federal prosecutor assigned to the Violent Crime Section to serve as a mentor and co-counsel on their federal cases.  The District of Arizona’s SAUSA program currently has 13 participants from 8 participating tribes – the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe --  and is expected to grow.  Seven tribal prosecutors participated in the training course this week, which included classroom work and participation in proceedings before the federal court and grand jury. The remaining participants will attend an identical training planned for January 2012. For more information about the department’s efforts related to tribal justice and safety, visit justice.gov/tribal.

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Updated April 7, 2017