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.


Project TEAM is happy to announce our next project will be in Montana. Project TEAM staff will be working with the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Court, the United States District Court for Montana, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana to develop a joint jurisdiction substance abuse court. This is Project TEAM's first work in a non-PL 280 state. Together with our partners, our intention is to design a framework for this joint jurisdiction court that can be adapted by other tribes and communities in Montana and beyond.  


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.  


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 August 2016, the draft court manual is under review by the State of Alaska and the court is expected to begin operation in 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.