”If you’re going to be tried by a jury of your peers, and you have no peers on the jury, that’s a problem.”
Seventh District Judge Gail Kulick, a former Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Band, came to the reservation December 14 to hear from Band members about their experience in the Minnesota court system.
Her goals are to compile facts about disparate treatment of minority members and to encourage Band members to serve on juries. ”If you’re going to be tried by a jury of your peers, and you have no peers on the jury, that’s a problem,” said Kulick.
Several Band members and employees shared their experiences on juries, at court, and in professional relationships with county court staff.
They talked about transportation being a barrier to jury duty and how the close-knit nature of the reservation means ”everybody knows everybody,” which can result in Band members being removed from juries.
Plans for a drug court and restorative justice initiatives were also discussed.
Band member Pete Nayquonabe said he had been called to jury duty twice but had never served on a jury. He was the only tribal member in the pool each time.
Chief Legislative Counsel Christine Jordan suggested that the court reach out to Band members by hosting courthouse tours or other events to foster positive interactions.
Commissioner Bradley Harrington said the probation system discourages groups like Sober Squad by not allowing felons on probation to associate with other convicted felons.
Kulick serves on the Tribal Court State Court Forum, which is composed of tribal court judges from Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribes and state court judges from Minnesota’s 87 district courts.
Kulick was joined by Judge Matt Quinn and Mille Lacs Band Special Advisor Tadd Johnson, who gave an introductory presentation on Indian law and history.