Winnebago Tribal Court Engages Nebraska Supreme Court on Discussion of State-Tribal Relations

Winnebago Tribal Court Engages Nebraska Supreme Court on Discussion of State-Tribal Relations

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Winnebago Tribal Court, under the leadership of Chief Judge Patrick Runge and Court Administrator Jennifer Berridge, opened its doors on August 16, 2023, to the Nebraska Supreme Court Summer Tour group for a dialogue centered on the dynamics between state and tribal courts.

Chief Judge Runge discussed the complexities of overlapping jurisdiction with state courts, particularly those within Thurston County. With insight and expertise, he and Berridge guided the visiting group through the court building, while discussing the influence of native culture on the court proceedings, offering a unique perspective on justice.

Carmelita Parker, overseeing Adult Probation, and Matthew Cleveland III, responsible for Juvenile Probation, took the floor to present a comprehensive overview of the intersections, challenges, and future interactions of tribal probation programming. The event also welcomed area state probation officers, fostering an environment for mutual learning and brainstorming for potential collaborations.

As the morning advanced, the justices and their travel group visited the Winnebago Youth Crisis Intervention Center (YCIC), led by Daryl LaPointe. This state-licensed 24-hour emergency and temporary housing facility caters to youths up to 19 years old. Distinguished by its commitment to stability, and cultural respect, the facility offers a safe place for children who are temporarily separated from their homes.

The location shifted midday as Winnebago Tribal Council members and Vice-chairman Brian Chamberlain extended a warm invitation to all participants for lunch at the Ho-Chunk Center. The tribal members greeted the guests with a traditional song, accompanied by drummers, several of whom had also been involved in earlier presentations. The lunch featured a main dish crafted from ancient corn grown through the youth facility's agricultural program.

Attorney Andrea Snowball initiated the afternoon discussion with a review of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Her presentation prompted an exchange of ideas and insights, contributing to a deeper understanding of the intersection of state and tribal courts.

The Winnebago Tribal Court's engagement with the Nebraska Supreme Court Summer Tour group marks another milestone in fostering collaboration, understanding, and shared progress between state and tribal judiciaries.

Photo: Winnebago Court Administrator Jennifer Berridge (pink jacket) talks with drumming group before lunch at the Ho-Chunk Center.


Purpose of Nebraska Supreme Court Summer Tours

According to Chief Justice Mike Heavican, summer visits are not only an opportunity to express the Court’s appreciation to community leaders for their support but also to gain valuable insights into the implementation of policies throughout the state. The Supreme Court and Chief Justice pay particular attention to the effectiveness of various court processes and use the visits to identify areas where assistance is requested, especially in terms of technology and services.

All state courts operate under the administrative direction of the Supreme Court.

Shortly after Heavican was named Chief Justice in 2006, he established the goal of visiting every one of the 93 courthouses and communities in Nebraska. Having accomplished that goal, he has continued to visit courthouses across the state, often accompanied by his fellow justices.