Public Law 280, 28 U.S.C. § 1360, did not divest the tribe of its inherent sovereign authority to establish and operate its own judicial system. The courts of the state of California lack jurisdiction over many civil disputes and criminal acts that occur on the tribe’s reservation.
The establishment of a tribal court that can exercise jurisdiction over civil disputes and criminal acts occurring on the tribe’s reservation, particularly those disputes and acts that the courts of the state of California lack jurisdiction over, is necessary to maintain peace and order on the Hopland Indian Reservation. The adoption of this ordinance promotes the health and safety of the members of the tribe, is in the best interests of the members of the tribe, and furthers the administration of justice on the reservation.
In the following years additional ordinances were established which grant the tribal court jurisdiction over specific matters, such as small claims, name changes, etc. The court received a grant of start-up funding from the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Tribal Courts Assistance Program in 2003. In 2004, while court planning was under way, a conflict in the tribe’s Constitution halted all court plans, development, and opening until a vote of the general membership could amend the constitution. In September of 2006, following a vote of the tribe’s general membership, the tribe hired a court clerk and contracted with a Chief Judge.