GRASSLEY’S HANDLING OF LAST WEEK’S HEARING REMINDED ME OF HIS VIEWS ON TRIBAL COURTS

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) delivers an opening statement before hearing from Christine Blasey Ford during a hearing with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building at the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS

 

Watching Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) preside over last Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s Senate reminded me of what he said about tribal courts soon after his vote against the Violence Against Women Act’s reauthorization five years ago.

Back then he indicated he doesn’t think tribal courts are capable of giving a fair trial to non-American Indians.

Grassley was captured in a video telling a town hall meeting in Indianola, Iowa that he voted no on VAWA because since reservations are made up of American Indians, those jurists wouldn’t be fair to non-American Indians.

During the contentious debate during the reauthorization of VAWA, GOP senators fought tooth-and-nail against the tribal provision that allowed for the first time for non-Native men who assaulted a Native woman to be arrested and tried in a tribal court.

“If you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley said. “Under the laws of our land, you’ve got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

 

Not much has changed in the five years since Grassley’s no vote. Last week, Grassley and the majority of his GOP senators wanted to hold a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be place on the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) told his fellow GOP senators he would only vote yes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation if there was a FBI investigation into the sexual allegations made against Kavanaugh.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story read: “Grassley was captured in a video telling a town hall meeting in Indianola, Iowa that he voted no on VAWA because since reservations are made up of American Indians, those jurists wouldbe fair to non-American Indians.” The sentence should read: “…those jurists wouldn’t be fair to non-American Indians.”

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