Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Model Court

Brief History

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Model Court joined the Model Courts Project in 2012.  Model Court Lead Judge Kevin Briscoe has been on the bench for the past 10 years. Judge Briscoe serves in the National American Indian Court Judges Association as well as the Children’s Justice Commission for the State of Mississippi.  He participates in the Hattiesburg Model Court team in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Judge Briscoe has served on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Advisory Committee for the Permanency Planning for Children Department for the past two years.  

It is the mission of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Model Court to secure for each child coming before the Court care, guidance, and control comparable to home, and to serve the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical welfare of the child/family and the best interest of the tribe. The court’s vision is to compassionately assist each youth and family coming through our system to help them make better choices, that will affect their lives in a positive way.

Leadership

Current Lead Judge:  Judge Kevin Briscoe

Court website -  http://www.choctaw.org/government/court/index.html

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1. Itti Kana Ikbi Peacemaker Court

The Choctaw Itti Kana Ikbi  Peacemaking Court uses traditional Choctaw methods of opposing parties to resolve disputes in a fair, informal, and inexpensive manner. It is a forum where all who encounter conflict with others may be able to find a peaceful resolution. It is the vision of Peacemaking to bring families back together when adversity among family members, homes have broken up.

Model

1. Focuses on Process "making things right" - "to repair"

2. Prayer is used initially and at the ending of process

3. Both Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction

4. Use of Customary and traditional law

5. Builds on trust and relationships to promote healing and restoration.

6. No attorney representation by extended or advocate.

7. Talk and discussion are necessary, native language can be used.

8. No Time Limit

9. The community right may supercede the individual right

10. Apology to victim, community, clan

11. Forgiveness is essential

12. Enforceable as an Order of the Court

13. Can give full faith and credit or comity

14. Completion finished; not to be spoken of again.

2. Tribal-State Collaboration

Judge Briscoe works closely with his state court colleagues, the Court Improvement Project (CIP), and others to improve child welfare not only for the children and families of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Tribe but is a voice on the national level.

An example is Judge Briscoe and Judge Michael McPhail (Hattiesburg Model Court Lead Judge) were instrumental in helping bring about a tribal-state Memorandum of Understanding signed by the tribal and state governments. The agreement was signed October 25th, 2012 between Chief Phyliss J. Anderson and Governor Phil Bryant. The purpose of the agreement is to initiate coordination of social services between the agencies in situations where Choctaw children and families live off of the reservation.  The agreement also establishes procedures and guidelines for response to Choctaw families, creates a resource system in support of social services, shares expertise and knowledge in the area of child welfare and protection and provides opportunities for training between the agencies.

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Model Court Collaborative System Improvement Team

One Family, One Judge

Youth Healing To Wellness Drug Court

Youth Teen Court

Adult Healing To Wellness Drug Court

Current Goals

NATIONAL GOAL:  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance 

To promote and improve ICWA compliance, Lead Judge Briscoe in collaboration with the CIP have been working closely to provide training to Mississippi judges, child welfare workers, supervisors, and system stakeholders both state and tribal on the ICWA through an Annual ICWA Conference. This conference is sponsored by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Model Court, Hattiesburg Model Court,  the Administrative Office of the Courts/Department of Family and Child Services Court Improvement Work Group, the Mississippi CIP, and the Mississippi Judicial College in consultation with the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues (NRCLJI), National Center for State Courts, and Casey Family Programs.

The state-tribal relationships have been a catalyst for the development of judicial training curriculum including an ICWA video which is being developed by the Mississippi CIP in collaboration with the NRCLJI and the National Resource Center for Tribes. This Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) video will be an educational resource for judges, courts, child welfare, and judicial educators. A trailer is available now, the full length video will be available this year.

Judge Briscoe is a member of the National Indian Child Welfare Workgroup hosted by the Casey Indian Child Welfare Program.  Casey Family Programs’ Indian Child Welfare team focuses on ways to improve outcomes for vulnerable American Indian and Alaska Native children and their families by influencing Indian child federal policy and practice including elevating the importance and present-day relevance of the ICWA. This meeting includes participation by federal officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children’s Bureau, and the Administration for Native Americans to develop a constructive working relationship with federal partners.

TRIBAL GOAL:  Court-wide Implementation of the Best Practices

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Model Court continues to implement best practices court-wide and is working towards beginning a Tribal CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program for Children Family Services.

LOCAL GOAL: Child Well-Being 

Lead Judge Briscoe is participating in the Excel By 5, a community-based program designed to improve a child's overall well-being by age five. This program emphasizes the important roles communities play in educating their children during their most formative years--birth to five. Excel By 5 sets forth a variety of standards involving parent training, community participation, child care and health to help communities focus on supporting young children and their families. The certification process also identifies available resources and existing best practices to help Excel By 5 - Early Childhood Communities reach the goal that all of their children will be ready to learn when they start school at age five.