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Justice System Improvement Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Santa Fe
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $506,492)

With this funding, Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribal Court will achieve two goals under Purpose Area #3. The first goal is to improve due process for criminal defendants by providing indigent defense counsel and improve prosecutorial capabilities. The Pueblo of Pojoaque has never provided indigent counsel for adults or juveniles arrested and charged with criminal or delinquent offenses. Only a few defendants each year hire counsel.  In plea negotiations and at trial, defendants without counsel are generally at a severe disadvantage. Having the opportunity to work with indigent defense counsel will improve due process for defendants in Tribal Court.

            Additionally, the Pueblo of Pojoaque has not yet implemented the sentencing enhancements allowed under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA). The only requirement that Pojoaque has not yet fulfilled is providing indigent defense as defined under TLOA. With implementation of an indigent defense service, we expect to revise Pojoaque’s Law and Order Code to permit the enhanced sentencing allowed by TLOA, to include all the protections for the defendant under that law.

Pojoaque also has never had a law-trained prosecutor to handle to criminal and juvenile cases filed in Pojoaque Tribal Court. The arresting tribal police officer handles prosecuting his or her own cases. A law trained prosecutor will take all prosecution duties from Tribal Police, freeing them up to do more police work. Also, a law trained prosecutor will more effectively prepare charging documents and other prosecutorial tasks, including preparing for trial. Although not required by TLOA, a law-trained prosecutor will be better able to negotiate pleas; understand potential outcomes; and to determine which cases warrant seeking enhanced sentencing and which cases do not qualify. Another goal will be to have the prosecutor commissioned as a Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA).

The second goal is to improve courthouse technology by replacing failing computers and copier/printer/fax/scanner in the courtroom and court offices. The equipment that will be replaced is over seven years old and starting to be balky. This interferes with court operations.

Date Created: November 23, 2021