Under longstanding policy, the U.S. Sentencing Commission takes the position that tribal court convictions ought not be counted for purposes of evaluating a convicted defendant's criminal history. Because in some cases this policy underestimates a defendant's criminal history, it undermines the utilitarian and retributive purposes of federal sentencing. The Tribal Law and Order Act, currently pending in Congress and supported by the President, should cause the United States Sentencing Commission to reconsider its position on tribal convictions. The Act would provide clear federal authorization for tribal court felony sentences of up to three years per offense as long as tribal governments provide counsel to indigent defendants. I stop short of recommending a particular outcome because I believe that the Commission ought to consider the views of tribal governments before deciding. However, if the Act becomes law, the Commission should take this opportunity to re-open the question and consult with tribes about the future of this provision.
Testimony Before the U.S. Sentencing Commission on the Tribal Law and Order Act,
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