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US Attorneys Cotter and Martinez to Lead AG’s Native American Issues Subcommittee

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced the appointment of two U.S. Attorneys to the Native American Issues Subcommittee.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced the appointment of two U.S. Attorneys to the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC).

Michael Cotter, District of Montana, and Damon P. Martinez, District of New Mexico, were named chair and vice-chair, respectively of NAIS.

“Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, the Native American Issues Subcommittee has been a critical source of expertise, guidance, and inspiration in addressing the department’s goals of reducing crime and strengthening communities across Indian country,” Holder said. “As public servants from districts with significant responsibilities related to tribal nations, Mike Cotter and Damon Martinez possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise that will serve to promote the mission of the NAIS and benefit Indian country as a whole. I am confident that, with their dedication, their vision, and their leadership, we will continue to deliver on this department’s important work and to fulfill this nation’s historic relationship of trust and cooperation with Native American and Alaska Native people.”

Cotter has served on the NAIS since 2009 and he replaces Tim Purdon, former U.S. Attorney for North Dakota who recently left for private practice. Montana has been a prime example of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative with prosecutors assigned to individual reservations where they hold monthly meetings with tribal and federal partners. According to a Department of Justice press release the strategy includes utilizing tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, tribal prosecutors who focus on domestic violence matters. Prosecutors, tribal prosecutors and law enforcement also hold bi-monthly case meetings to develop cross-disciplinary trainings, and presentations to first responders on the new federal strangulation statutes in Indian country.

Martinez was appointed to NAIS in May 2014 while continuing and expanding the implementation of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative in New Mexico – home to 22 Indian pueblos and tribes. “Through the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project, sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, federal prosecutors train tribal prosecutors and officers in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques so that every viable sexual and violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both,” the DOJ release said.

New Mexico, partnering with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Office of Justice Services, established one of the first HIDTA drug task forces in Indian country. The task force also supports two Indian Country Project Safe Neighborhood programs that focus on reducing gun violence in tribal communities.

New Mexico has also been working to develop one of the nation’s Indian country reentry programs which will launch in May of this year. The program is in coordination with the Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative. Prosecutors have partnered with the BIA to train tribal, local and state officers in an effort to get them commissioned as special federal officers of the BIA and enhance public safety.

U.S. Attorneys from states containing Indian country comprise the NAIS which focuses exclusively on Indian country issues, both criminal and civil and responsible for recommending new policy initiatives to the Attorney General. The AGAC was established in 1973 to serve as a voice of the U.S. Attorneys in an advisory role to the Attorney General on policy, management, and operational issues impacting the offices around the country.