Who We Are
Our staff members are dedicated to improving tribal judicial systems around the nation and have extensive experience as national trainers and facilitators on a variety of tribal issues. TJI also currently employs approximately ten law students to provide legal research, develop materials and resources and to assist tribes with their technical assistance needs.
BJ Jones - Executive Director
BJ has over 25 years experience as a tribal judge for various Tribes in the Northern Plains area. He currently serves as Chief Judge for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and its Treatment Court. In addition Jones teaches Criminal Law and Jurisdiction in Indian Country and a seminar on the Indian Child Welfare Act at the University of North Dakota School of Law.
Jones has presented at over 200 national and regional conferences since 1995 including the Indian Nations Conference, Department of Justice events, United States Federal Courts conferences, the Federal Bar Association, American Bar Association events and National American Indian Court Judges' Conferences and Parks at Department of Justice, American Bar Association, and other events. Jones serves on the North Dakota Supreme Court's Tribal-State Judges' Committee.
Michelle Rivard Parks - Associate Director
Michelle has more than 18 years experience working in Indian country as a prosecutor, tribal attorney, trial judge and appellate judge. Michelle currently serves at the Chief Justice of the MHA Nation Supreme Court. Michelle has subject matter expertise in such matters as domestic violence, sexual assault, tribal criminal jurisdiction, tribal code development, and tribal business law. In addition, Parks has taught Federal Indian Law, Tribal Law and Tribal Economic Development at the University of North Dakota School of Law. Michelle has also served as a faculty member at regional and national training events for more than 15 years. She and Jones serve on the North Dakota Supreme Court's Tribal-State Judges' Committee.
Lynnette Morin - Program Administrator
Lynnette has several years of experience serving as a lay advocate in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal Court. Lynnette currently serves as the Judge for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Wellness Court. Lynette joined the Tribal Judicial Institute in 2014 and is responsible for coordinating the training and travel assistance for the grantees and other tribes funded through the Tribal Court Assistance Program (TCAP).
The Institute's trainings focus primarily on tribal law enforcement development and enhancement, as well as the design and enhancement of tribal justice systems for adults and youth.
The founder of the Tribal Judicial Institute (formerly the Northern Plains Tribal Judicial Training Institute) is Gene Delorme, the current director of INMED. While serving as Assistant Dean of the Law School, Mr. Delorme convinced the Bush Foundation to provide funding to the Law School for training Tribal court employees in the Dakotas and Minnesota. This seed funding, starting in 1993, allowed TJI to provide training. Continued funding sustained technical assistance provided to Indian tribes until 1998, when the program became one of the original grantees under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Tribal Court Assistance Program, under which it continues to be funded.
In 2001, the Institute was asked by BJA to coordinate the Tribal Court Assistance Program and since that time has served as the primary technical assistance provider to the over 250 Indian tribes that have received funding under the Tribal Court Assistance Project. The TCAP program was conceived under DOJ's Indian Country Law Enforcement Initiative and its primary focus has been assuring safety for native communities by providing funding to Indian tribes to improve the collaboration between law enforcement and the Courts and to assist local tribal initiatives to respond to crime in Indian country. Tribal Justice issues have always been a priority for the Tribal Judicial Institute. Under the TCAP program the Institute helped coordinate two "Listening" conferences where tribal leaders in Alaska and tribal leaders in the lower 48 United States were able to come together with federal and state policy makers and express their concerns about crime in their communities.