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Salt River Tribal Justice Center Grand Opening

(L to R) LSO Managing Attorney Kierstin Prince, Court Administrator Sondra Acedo, Council member Archie Kashoya, Council member Jenelle Howard, Council member Deanna Scabby, Chief Judge Ryan Andrews, SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray, Sr., Council member David Antone, Vice-President Martin Harvier, Defense Advocate's Office Vincent Barraza and Prosecutor’s Office Jeffery Harmon.

On the morning of October 6, many Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and current and former Justice Center staff gathered in the courtyard of the new Tribal Justice Center for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening.

Eleanor Enos gave the opening prayer, followed by SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier, who emceed the event.

Speakers included SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray Sr., Chief Judge Ryan Andrews, and Jim Miller, AIA, of Gould Evans Phoenix, the building’s architect, who explained the inspiration and concepts behind the design of the new building.

President Ray shared a brief history of the Salt River court buildings; the first one opened in the 1960s, and also named many of the former and current judges of the Community. President Ray himself is a former judge and chief judge for the Community and also served as a judge for other Native communities in Arizona.

“I want to welcome each and every one of you from wherever you come, all the pieces that make up the judicial adversarial system,” said President Ray. “All the prosecutors, defense attorneys, Guardians At Litem (GAL), social services, and other programs. You are all bound together to give justice. So I just want to thank you for being here today.”

Ray talked about the Bill of Rights during the Civil Rights era and recalled how the maximum sentence was $500 and a few months in jail. Today, with the Tribal Law and Order Act, the Community is keeping up with the times and the serious crimes that occur.

“We have been able to overcome a lot of things. The only thing we are not able to overcome is the ever-growing population, which inspired the idea to move [forward] with building [this new] facility,” said President Ray. “I want to congratulate the Judicial Committee because it’s about the rights of the people, which is the first thing I learned when becoming a judge, and that is what I advocate for.”

Chief Judge Andrews talked about the effort that went into creating the new Tribal Justice Center.

“I want to thank everyone that has been a part of the process—the court administration, legal departments and all the departments that have business with the court. Thank you for your patience,” he said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony included President Ray, Vice-President Harvier, Tribal Council members, Chief Judge Andrews and the directors of the Justice Center. After that, guests could tour the facility and see the different courtrooms, the jury rooms and the rest of the facility.

During the tour, a few people shared their thoughts.

The staff moved into the new facility in August. When asked about relocating the courts to the new building, Judge Darayne Achin said the move was very smooth.

“We were all asked to be responsible for our personal belongings. All work-related equipment was moved by Public Works, and they did a very good job, and they brought in all the new furniture.” Her favorite part about the new court is the clean air.

Architect Jim Miller shared, “It’s been several years now since we first began this project. We started with a process that involved working with [the SRPMIC] Cultural Resources [Department] and really learning about the people and the land. That was frankly so inspiring for us—the vast horizon, the big sky was such an inspiration to us that we really worked to try include that and let that inspiration manifest itself in the building. But more than that, really the people that we worked through throughout this process made it really unlike any project that I’ve been involved in.”

Marissa Johnson contributed to this article.