The Honorable Melissa L. Pope, chief judge for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) Tribal Court, received the 2023 Judith S. Kaye Award for Judicial Excellence during a ceremony at the American Bar Association in Denver.

This award recognizes dedicated service by judicial officers who demonstrate knowledge of domestic and sexual violence and exemplary leadership developing courtroom responses to these issues.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to have been selected by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence to receive the Judith S. Kaye Judicial Excellence Award,” Judge Pope said.

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Since being appointed as chief judge of  Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Court, she has been involved with the efforts of NHBP to address the epidemic of violence against Indigenous People. 

As a delegate of the Intertribal Technical-Assistance Working Group on Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction (ITWG) and the NHBP Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Enactment Team, Judge Pope worked in collaboration with NHBP Staff to develop the infrastructure, programs, and services needed to adopt a Domestic Violence Code that included restored jurisdiction pursuant to VAWA.

She has served on the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Court since February 2011. Judge Pope was reappointed to a four-year appointment in December 2022. Additionally, she has also served in the elected position of Chief Justice of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Court of Appeals since 2009. In addition to her duties as judge, she has been teaching American Indian Law as a Member of the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law since 2007.

“Receiving this Award not only reminds me of the Seventh Generation to come that I must work to protect so that violence, hopefully, does not touch their lives, but fills my heart with gratitude for the Seventh Generation who came before me and who sacrificed so much - many their very lives - so that I may do this work today,” said Pope. “I honor all those who have worked, are currently working, or will work in the future to end the violence that permeates the lives of Indigenous People, Tribal Nations, and Indigenous communities.”

Judge Pope has been actively engaged in the Anti-Violence Movement throughout her life.

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