SCC, Pima tribe to offer Tribal Court Advocate Certificate

From left are Virgil Wade, director of the SCC Tribal Court Advocate Certificate Program, Dr. Stephanie Fujii, SCC dean of instruction, SRPMIC Chief Judge Ryan Andrews and Ray Weinhold, special assistant to SCC president.

From left are Virgil Wade, director of the SCC Tribal Court Advocate Certificate Program, Dr. Stephanie Fujii, SCC dean of instruction, SRPMIC Chief Judge Ryan Andrews and Ray Weinhold, special assistant to SCC president.

Scottsdale Community College and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community have partnered to establish a Tribal Court Advocacy Certificate Program beginning in the fall semester.

The program will provide a pipeline of persons trained to represent people in tribal courts. The classes, which culminate with a certificate, will prepare students to become legal advocates with an understanding how tribal courts operate, broad knowledge of American Indian laws and code and the tools to responsibly represent clients, according to a press release.

“We want to make sure people are competent, ethical, professional and knowledgeable when representing people,” stated Virgil Wade in the release. He will direct the SCC program and is an assistant director in the SRPMIC Defense Advocate Office.

Mr. Wade, a 20-year veteran in the SRPMIC Defense Advocate Office, was selected to serve as the program’s director because of his strong experience. In addition to helping launch and oversee the certificate program, he will teach courses this fall. More adjunct faculty will be added as the student cohort moves through the program.

Students will take evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an additional course on Wednesdays during the initial eight weeks of the program. It will be a four-semester program, according to the release.

Because tribal court advocates do not have to be lawyers to represent a person, training is critical, noted SRPMIC Chief Judge Ryan Andrews.

“Having more advocates – whether they work here or elsewhere – will be a big benefit,” stated Chief Judge Andrews, who received a certificate in a similar program offered by Phoenix College before that  program folded several years ago according to the release. “It will give clients more choices for representation and the advocates will be better trained and prepared to provide quality representation.”

Tribal courts handle both criminal and some civil court cases. While more serious felony crimes are handled in U.S. federal court, tribal courts can handle Class A felonies involving its community members.

While many of the students initially will be from the Salt River community, others are expected to come from among the state’s many tribes, including Fort McDowell, Camp Verde, Gila River and Tohono O’odham lands, according to the release.

“This is designed to provide them with the tools to gain knowledge and skills to work in any tribal court,” stated Ray Weinhold, an assistant to SCC President Jan Gehler, and a member of the advisory committee that helped establish the program, according to the release.

Mr. Wade hopes that as the word gets out about the program, more people will be willing to earn the certificate.

 

“Once we get the program off the ground, our challenge will be to sustain it,” Mr. Wade said. “We will continue to reach out and advertise.”

 

Those interested in the program should contact Virgil Wade at 480-242-7843 or virgil.wade@scottsdalecc.edu.

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