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Tribe swears in first appellate judges

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TribalCouncilThe Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council and Principal Chief Donnis Battise begin a new year. (l-r) Melanie Battise, Nita Battise, Ricky Sylestine, Donnis Battise, Ronnie Thomas, Crystal Stephenson, Tina Battise and Yolanda Poncho. (Below) Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Principal Chief Donnis Battise swears in Jeremy Sylestine as the tribe’s first ever chief appellate judge. Sylestine is joined by his father, Ricky Sylestine, who serves as chairman of the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council. (l-r) Battise, Sylestine and Sylestine. Courtesy photo

From Enterprise Staff

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas swore in its first-ever appellate court judges recently, including a tribal member who will serve as chief appellate judge.

The Appellate Division of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Court System hears appeals from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Court, which handles civil, criminal and child custody matters, including child support. The tribe created the court system almost 10 years ago after a change in federal law granted tribes more authority to handle criminal matters, as long as judges are law-trained and public defender services are offered to those charged. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe was one of the first in the country to set up its own court system in compliance with the new law.

Tribal member Jeremy Sylestine, who has extensive experience as a prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer, was sworn in as the tribe’s first chief appellate judge on Jan. 8. He later swore in two other appellate judges – Alfred Urbina, the attorney general of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Derrick Beetso, a professor of Indian law at Arizona State University.

“We are honored to take on this responsibility and to administer justice on behalf of the tribe and tribal citizens,” Sylestine said. “The existence of this court system is an important exercise of our sovereignty.”

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Court has two law-trained attorney judges, as well as a tribal prosecutor and two public defenders. A Peacemaker Court consisting of three tribal community leaders attempts to resolve disputes outside of the Tribal Court, using culturally appropriate resolution methods, when requested by the parties.

Also on Jan. 8, the tribe swore in returning Tribal Council Member Yolanda Poncho for her second term, as well as new Tribal Council Member Tina Battise. Council Member Battise replaces longtime Council Member Roland Poncho.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Grace Holman · 2 months ago
    Chief Donnis Battiste greatly resembles the Chief Battiste I knew in the late 1970s. I had many wonderful visits with Chief Battiste and the Tribe. Congratulations on your achievement. Grace Holman