Choctaw Nation Expands Judicial Service

May 20, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

Choctaw Nation Expands Judicial Service

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma upholds tribal sovereignty in federal criminal cases. This makes it particularly important for tribal governments to maintain strong court systems. The ruling will likely lead to increased caseloads, including cases of widely disbursed or rural constituents. Elevating technology is a good way tribal governments can usher in this new era and meet the expanding demands on tribal judicial systems. At the same time, technology can also drive process and procedure improvements.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Judicial Branch, a long-standing independent branch of the Choctaw Nation, is taking steps to be a leader in this technology movement. Recently, Choctaw Nation expanded access to its court system by helping tribal members better navigate the judicial process. Leaders achieved this with a thoughtful technology approach aimed at reducing complexity and increasing electronic access to court services.

Long-Term Vision for Justice

For Choctaw Nation, a legacy court technology system was unable to sustain continued growth or fully support leaders’ long-term vision for justice. The challenges before court officials were many, including how to overcome cumbersome, manual processes and how to better serve residents in rural areas. A comprehensive new technology solution promised to make court processes simpler and more accessible.

The selected cloud-based solution connects courts, prosecutors, public defenders, and other judicial agencies in the Choctaw court system, and allows for important collaborations through electronic data-sharing. The sophisticated software also creates a completely paperless process that saves time for constituents, judges, jurors, and attorneys. These stakeholders benefit from digital notifications and access to up-to-date information from any location at any time. By automating and digitizing the system, many manual processes have also been eliminated. For example, the need to transport stacks of paper by hand from 29 arresting agencies to the prosecutor and clerk’s offices is a thing of the past, saving time and paper, plus helping ensure courts are 100% digital within the next five years.

Reaching Rural Constituents

Perhaps even more important than efficiency is access to justice. For tribal members not located within easy traveling distance to a court, the new system allows them to participate in justice processes or view court information online. In the past, citizens representing themselves in civil cases like divorces, evictions, or small claims had to manually complete the necessary paperwork and file the cases in-person at the courthouse, something often difficult for tribal elders and those living in rural areas. Now, anyone can access help and file online.

Leading the Way

Choctaw Nation moved to an integrated, electronic system to prepare for the outcomes of McGirt v. Oklahoma and to provide Choctaw citizens a trustworthy and equitable judicial system. Their experience provides an excellent blueprint for other tribal nations looking to modernize their legal processes and elevate the court services they offer constituents. Access to justice is a priority for all tribal nations, and technology puts it within reach.

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