During the North Dakota Senate campaign last year, liberal Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was quick to lambaste her opponent Rick Berg for a “war on women” because House Republicans were resisting the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. To hear Heitkamp tell it at the time, Berg was all for violence against women, but there was good reason to avoid the reauthorization.
Democrats embedded in the new law provisions expanding the authority of tribal courts to non-tribal members accused of crimes on reservation lands, which runs afoul of the right to trial by an impartial jury. In Duren vs Missouri, the Supreme Court held that a trial by a jury made up exclusively of men violated both the 6th amendment requirement for an impartial jury and the 14th amendment requirement for equal protection under the law.
In tribal courts, juries are made up exclusively of tribal members. How could any non-tribal member be said to have received an impartial trial with such a jury?
That apparently doesn’t matter to Senator Heitkamp, despite having touted her legal credentials during her campaign, or Senator Hoeven for that matter both of whom voted for the bill:
The U.S. Senate voted 68-31 today to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which aims to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., both voted for the bill, which puts new provisions concerning the LGBT and American Indian communities into the act.
Hoeven was among Republican senators who tried unsuccessfully to strip the LGBT provision from the bill but voted for it on final passage. Heitkamp was among the bill’s cosponsors.
“This legislation is critically important to North Dakota families, particularly for Native American women,” Heitkamp said in a statement issued after the vote.
The goal of protecting women from violence is, of course, very important. But then, due process rights up to and including trial by a fair and impartial jury are pretty important too.