Saturday, February 24, 2018

Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid (center) stands in the chambers of Crow Tribal Court with Associate Judges Sheila Not Afraid (left) and Kari Covers Up.

Chief Judge Not Afraid vouches for current judicial team in general election

Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid, in his estimation, has a good pair of associate judges in Sheila Not Afraid and Kari Covers Up, and his “first and foremost goal is to keep this team in place.” To that end, he, Sheila and Covers Up are finishing a joint campaign for the Crow Tribe’s general election scheduled this Saturday.
Leroy is running unopposed in the election, but Sheila and Covers Up have a challenger for associate judge in public defender Michelle Wilson.
“It’s a great team and there’s a lot of communication,” Covers Up said. “Everybody’s trying to be on the same page so we make the court run smoothly.”
Sheila is assigned to the court’s civil department – this section deals with issues including divorce, child custody, child support, adult guardianship, lawsuits and inheritance rights over property. Covers Up, at present, is alternating with Leroy on juvenile court and criminal court – these deal with cases involving drug use, violent crimes or driving under the influence.
If a conflict of interest arises – such as when a family member is prosecuted – Covers Up said, one judge recuses himself or herself and another takes the bench. Though Leroy and Sheila happen to be married, Sheila added, their court lives are strictly separate from their social lives, which are sometimes quite secluded. 
“We don’t get involved in each other’s cases just as I don’t get involved with any of Judge Covers Up’s cases,” Sheila said. “We stay completely independent.”
Sometimes, tribal members in remote areas on the Crow Reservation may find it difficult to travel to court, especially if they don’t have a car. Thus, the Judicial Branch established the mobile court to visit all districts within the Crow Reservation to take care of outstanding bench warrants.
Covers Up’s main goal, she said, is to continue the mobile court consistently every other month and clear out the backlog of court dates. The mobile court has reached multiple towns throughout the Crow Reservation – from Lodge Grass and Wyola in the south, to Pryor in the east. Nearly 40 people with outstanding warrants have participated so far.
“Nobody goes to jail,” Covers Up said. “They just come to court, we get them back on calendar, we quash their warrant and we expect them to come back to court. They get a new court date.”
Sheila, for her part, wants to teach the public on proper court procedure – “what to file, how to file, what their part is and what our part is.” There are a lot of misconceptions about the court’s abilities, she said, and her goal is to clear them up and streamline the judging process.
Within the past four years, Sheila said, the court has sponsored two training sessions. The first was offered for the staff on how to handle self-represented litigants, whether it be by answering their questions or dealing with them if they became irate. The second session, on proper procedure, was offered to the public and all advocates.
In the future, Sheila said, she wants to offer these trainings once or twice per year.
“They don’t know what to do when they come to the window,” she said of people attending court. “We can’t give them legal advice, but we can give them procedure.”
Whatever trials tribal court may have faced in the past, Leroy said, he has a team that he can trust to be impartial and unbiased. The Judicial Branch “cannot be influenced by public opinion or politics,” he continued.
“This team…will continue the mission to deliver justice and fairness,” he said. “We are going to continue to make sure that folks are held accountable. That’s the bottom line.”
To contact the Crow Tribal Court, call (406) 638-7400.