U.S. Attorneys Michael Cotter and Damon P. Martinez to Lead Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the appointment of U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter for the District of Montana and U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico as the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC).
“Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, the Native American Issues Subcommittee has been a critical source of expertise, guidance, and inspiration in addressing the department’s goals of reducing crime and strengthening communities across Indian country,” said Attorney General Holder. “As public servants from districts with significant responsibilities related to tribal nations, Mike Cotter and Damon Martinez possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise that will serve to promote the mission of the NAIS and benefit Indian country as a whole. I am confident that, with their dedication, their vision, and their leadership, we will continue to deliver on this department’s important work and to fulfil this nation’s historic relationship of trust and cooperation with Native American and Alaska Native people.”
U.S. Attorney Cotter was appointed to the NAIS in 2009. He replaces U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon of the District of North Dakota. The District of Montana has served as a successful example of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative. Prosecutors are assigned to individual reservations and travel monthly for meetings with tribal and federal partners. The strategy includes utilizing tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, tribal prosecutors who focus on domestic violence matters. Prosecutors also participate in bi-monthly case meetings with tribal prosecutors and law enforcement, as well as develop cross-disciplinary trainings, such as presentations to first responders on the new federal strangulation statutes in Indian Country.
As part of ongoing Initiative efforts, Assistant U.S. Attorneys facilitated the creation of and continuing work by the Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), which are comprised of prosecutors, law enforcement, as well as medical and social service providers. The SARTs represent a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to responding to sex crimes that occur on reservations.
U.S. Attorney Martinez, who was appointed to the NAIS in May 2014, has continued and expanded the implementation of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative and other federal initiatives in New Mexico which is home to 22 Indian pueblos and tribes. Through the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project, sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, federal prosecutors train tribal prosecutors and officers in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques so that every viable sexual and violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both. Working with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, New Mexico has established one of the first HIDTA drug task forces in Indian Country. It also supports two Indian Country Project Safe Neighborhood programs that focus on reducing gun violence in tribal communities. Under the Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative, the District of New Mexico has been working with an interdisciplinary team to develop one of the nation’s Indian Country reentry programs which will be launched in May of this year. Prosecutors also partner with BIA to train tribal, local and state officers so that they may be commissioned as special federal officers of the BIA and enhance public safety in the District’s tribal communities by enforcing federal law.
The AGAC was created in 1973 to serve as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys and to advise the Attorney General on policy, management, and operational issues impacting the offices of the U.S. Attorneys. The NAIS is made up of U.S. Attorneys from across the U.S. whose Districts contain Indian Country or one or more federally recognized tribes. The NAIS focuses exclusively on Indian Country issues, both criminal and civil and is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General of the U.S. regarding public safety and legal issues that impact tribal communities.