Tribal Courts of New York
Cayuga  •  Oneida  •  Onondaga  •  St. Regis Mohawk  •  Seneca  •  Tonawanda Seneca  •  Tuscarora  •  Shinnecock  •  Unkechaug
N.Y. State Unified Court System  •  United States Courts for the Second Circuit Resident in the State of New York
color strip


Recognition of Tribal Orders and Judgments


Honoring tribal court orders has been a continuing problem in New York State. Finding a method to ensure recognition of valid tribal court orders has been a key project of the Forum and the adoption of Rule 202.71 of the Uniform Civil Rules of the Supreme and County Courts relating to the recognition of tribal court orders was a significant achievement of the Forum.

In October 2011, the New York Unified System Tribal Courts Committee (the “Tribal Courts Committee”) recommended for inclusion in the New York State Unified Court System’s 2012 legislative agenda, among other things, an enactment requiring mutual recognition, based on established principals of comity, of judgments of the State courts and the courts of New York’s Indian Nations. This recommendation was based, in part, upon a 2008 pilot protocol adopted by the Fifth Judicial District Supreme Court part and the Oneida Indian Nation, which provided for the reciprocal recognition of tribal and state court judgments.

The Tribal Courts Committee submitted the proposed rule to the New York Unified Court System’s Administrative Board of the Courts Advisory Committee on Civil Practice (Advisory Committee.) The proposed rule prompted much comment and consideration from the Advisory Committee, the Bar Association and the New York Federal-State-Tribal Courts and Indian Nations Justice Forum. The end result was a finding of a need for the proposed rule, and upon the advice and consent of the Administrative Board, the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York Unified Court System, the Honorable Gail Prudenti, signed section 202.71 of the Uniform Civil Rules of the Supreme and County Courts on May 26, 2017.

Section 202.71. Recognition of Tribal Court Judgments, Decrees and Orders

This court rule allows any person seeking recognition of a judgement, decree or order rendered by a court duly established under tribal or federal law by any Indian tribe, band or nation recognized by the State of New York or by the United States to commence a special proceeding in Supreme Court. If the court finds that the judgment, decree or order is entitled to recognition under principles of the common law of comity, it shall direct entry of the tribal judgment, decree or order as a judgment, decree or order of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Section 202.71 does not supplant or diminish other available procedures for the recognition of judgments, decrees and orders under the law. Since the promulgation of the rule, the Tribal Courts Committee has worked to develop easy to follow procedures and forms to assist any person looking to have a judgment, decree or order of a tribal court recognized as a judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Section 202.71

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Recognition of Tribal Court Judgments, Decrees and Orders

In addition to providing a simplified process for the courts to follow in recognizing tribal court orders, the adoption of Rule 202.71 resulted in governmental agencies and banks recognizing tribal orders without the requirement that the tribal order be formally recognized by the State Courts.

In 2015, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) responded to an inquiry of the Forum regarding uniform recognition of tribal court judgments, decrees and orders in relation to access to change of name services and tribal court’s divorce decrees when renewing a license. The DMV immediately issues a directive to create a uniform practice across all DMV offices to honor tribal orders, decrees and judgments.

DMV Decree of Recognition of Tribal Court Orders, Decrees and Judgments, July 21, 2015

Native Bail Reform Pilot Program

The Native Bail Reform Initiative Pilot Program was fully funded by the United States Department of Justice Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation Grant in 2017. It is a three-year grant and is currently underway. The purpose of the pilot program is to allow a defendant’s release from pretrial incarceration but assure reappearance in court on a criminal matter. The New York Court of Appeals struck down cash-only bail due to its disparate impact on the indigent. Residents of Native American territories in New York are faced with an unequal opportunity to secure pretrial release from incarceration as procuring a commercial bail/bond (using land owned on the reservation as collateral) is not possible. Federal and tribal laws make lands in Indian territory inalienable. Thus, a native accused of a crime is frequently left with only the cash bond option. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Court in conjunction with the Town of Bombay Court will participate in this first ever tribal-state court collaboration on a bail reform initiative.

Indian Child Welfare and Child Support Enforcement

The Forum has been very active in providing and assisting with basic and advanced education on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Educational programs at the First and Second Listening Conferences held in 2006 and 2016 included panel discussions on important topics and concerns involving native children and the state-tribal court relationship. In addition, the Forum actively and continuously participates in judicial training for state court judges. In addition, the Forum remains focused on the issues of child support enforcement and the objective of some tribes and nations to develop a memorandum of understand (MOU) with New York State on the repatriation of child support cases currently in the state courts.

Wellness Court

In partnership with surrounding county courts, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Healing to Wellness Court brings together all support that offenders may have in the community and works collaboratively to provide the offender every opportunity to succeed in achieving wellness through traditional or cultural-based services. Through cooperation with the Tribal Law and Policy Institute or the Center for Court Innovation, Indian Nations and counties are seeking to adopt this Wellness Court model statewide.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Healing to Wellness Court