Project TEAM


Project TEAM is dedicated to helping tribes and local governments create, implement and manage judicially-led joint jurisdiction collaborations. Our goals are to improve justice outcomes in the community, use resources more efficiently and effectively through collaboration and partnership, and to help repair traditionally difficult relationships between tribes and US governmental bodies.


In 2006, Judge John P. Smith of Cass County, Minnesota and Judge Korey Wahwassuck from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe joined together to combat impaired driving and substance-use related crime in their community by creating a joint-jurisdiction Wellness Court. Their court was the first joint-jurisdiction collaboration of its kind in the country and it was successful on many levels. The collaborative Wellness Court reduced recidivism and improved public safety in the community, it facilitated improved relations between the Tribe and local communities, and it inspired additional joint-jurisdiction collaborations such as a juvenile reentry program, Wellness Court creation in surrounding communities, and tribal flag installations at county court houses and Chambers of Commerce. The Cass County/Leech Lake Wellness Court has won several national and international awards (Harvard University Honoring Nations Award; National Association of Drug Court Professionals Award; the National Criminal Justice Association Award, among others) and both Judge Smith and Judge Wahwassuck are frequently asked to consult on the creation of joint jurisdiction projects. 


The Project TEAM collaboration model is based on the work of Judges Smith and Wahwassuck. Judges Smith and Wahwassuck are joined by Jennifer Fahey, JD, and Allison Leof, PhD, in comprising the Project TEAM personnel. Project TEAM is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide on-site training and technical assistance to federally-recognized Indian tribes and their state, local or federal government partners to develop joint-jurisdiction collaborative initiatives in the courts or criminal justice system. 


In May 2016, Project TEAM published a manual intended to be a roadmap for tribal and community leaders who want to develop joint jurisdiction courts or initiatives in their own communities. Titled Joint Jurisdiction Courts: A Manual for Developing Tribal, Local, State &Federal Justice Collaborations, the manual and accompanying supplementary materials can be found here. Production and publication of the manual was funded through a grant provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice.  

Completed Projects

Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Tribal Court and El Dorado County Superior Court, El Dorado County, California

In 2014, Project TEAM staff worked with the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Tribal Court and the El Dorado County Superior Court in El Dorado County, California to design a joint jurisdiction court to serve tribal youth and their families identified through delinquency, truancy or dependency (child protective services) proceedings. Over three separate, two day meetings, Project TEAM staff worked with Judge Suzanne Kingsbury (Presiding Judge, El Dorado County Superior Court), Judge Christine Williams (Chief Judge, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Tribal Court) and more than 30 representatives from tribal and county departments to adopt a project mission and goals and to draft a court procedures manual. Participants in the planning meetings included legal staff from both the tribe and county (e.g., tribal attorney, county counsel, deputy district attorney, chief public defender) as well as a representative from California state government;county probation officers;county, city and tribal law enforcement;service providers (e.g., tribal and county social services;behavioral health treatment providers);tribal and county political leaders, and representatives from the tribal cultural committee. The result was a joint jurisdiction court intended to provide families with culturally appropriate restorative justice through a wrap-around continuum of care model. 
In January 2015, the judges were cross-sworn into each other's courts as pro-tem judges, the first time such an arrangement to share jurisdiction had been achieved in the United States. The court began operation in April 2015, and has continuously served the children and families of the community since that time.  
A copy of the court's March 2016 manual and participant manual can be found here.

Kenaitze Indian Tribe and Kenai Superior Court, Kenai, Alaska

In 2015, Project TEAM staff worked with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the Kenai Superior Court in Kenai, Alaska to develop a joint jurisdiction court intended to serve adult, non-violent, felony alcohol or drug offenders. Using the same model of three separate, two-day, on-site meetings, Project TEAM staff worked with Chief Judge Kim Sweet of the Kenaitze Tribal Court and Judge Anna Moran of the Kenai Superior Court to facilitate the meetings. Participants in the planning meetings included eight other tribal or state judges;the local district attorney and public defender;a representative from the Alaska Attorney General's office;law enforcement;staff from the National Criminal Justice Association;local, regional and state probation officials;child welfare representatives;representatives from both tribal and community social services, and tribal cultural committee members. As of May 2016, the draft court manual is under review by the State of Alaska and the court is expected to begin operation in the summer of 2016.


Project TEAM is now accepting letters of interest from representatives of federally recognized Indian tribes and their local, state or federal partners who wish to develop a judicially-led, joint jurisdiction justice related collaboration in their communities. Project TEAM will provide on-site training and technical assistance for up to two projects identified through this selection process.

Required Elements of Letters of Interest

In order to be considered for Project TEAM's assistance, letters of interest must include the following elements: 

  1. Letters of interest much be signed by both a tribal and non-tribal judge. Signing the letter should indicate an intention on the part of the judges to serve as leaders of the project 
  2. Potential sites must be from states not under Public Law 83-280 (commonly referred to as Public Law 280 or PL 280) legal authority. For more information about PL 280, see the Tribal Law and Policy Institute's website. Link: 
  3. A brief description of the project the applicants would like to create OR the target population/justice related goal they would like to achieve 
  4. A resolution or letter from Tribal Council supporting tribal participation in the project 
The following elements are preferred, but not required:  
  1. Federal participation in the application or a letter of support indicating intention to participate in the project development. Examples of federal participation include but are not limited to support from a federal judge, federal law enforcement, or a U.S. Attorney 
  2. Documentation of the availability of resources needed in the community to support the project or goals identified (e.g., treatment facilities, relationships with supervision officers or law enforcement) 
Process for Evaluating Letters of Interest and Selecting Upcoming Pilot Sites

Due to requests from interested parties, the deadline to apply for Project TEAM's assistance has been extended until Monday, August 1, 2016. Applications may be submitted at any time on a rolling basis, and Project TEAM will review the letters of interest and invite qualifying applicants to participate in a phone interview with Project TEAM staff. Following the phone interviews, Project TEAM staff will review all proposed projects and make a recommendation to Bureau of Justice Assistance staff on which project(s) to pursue. All applicants will receive final notice of their application's status by Wednesday, September 7, 2016.  


For more information about Project TEAM, opportunities for on-site technical assistance, or other services Project TEAM may provide, please contact Allison Leof at or 503-494-3805.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2012-IC-BX-K003 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.