COMMENTARY: Tribal member voices concern over DV practice of “first come, first served”

by Jun 2, 2019OPINIONS




I am E Li Shi.

I read and appreciate the article about the EBCI Integrated Domestic Violence Intervention Program (“EBCI making strides in Domestic Violence communication”).  And, I am happy that this grant project has gotten all the stakeholders working together.  Yes, domestic violence is a very complicated issue, physically and emotionally, and for the entire family.   If this ‘new way of doing business’ involves individual case reviews with all the stakeholders around the table, this should be a major improvement in service.  The article did not name all of the stakeholders around the table. I also read the commentary by Jamie Arnold (“A cry heard”), legal assistant office attorney, which portrayed a true victim of domestic violence.

Today, my concerns still need attention, and possibly legislative changes.  It is the ‘practice of First Come First Serve’ at the magistrate’s office, to file DVPO’s and 50-B’s which starts the process of the criminal side of this issue.  The magistrates DVPO Ex Parte immediately grants temporary custody to the plaintiff.

Magistrates should take a moment to consider the validity of the accusatitions, or the whole story, especially when it results in the granting of temporary custody to the first person there, the plaintiff.  It usually takes months for DVPO’s to get to trial, to sort fact from fiction, to get the whole story out and to get some justice for the other true victims (our children).  A little due diligence would have gone a long way, because it takes weeks and months for the court to hear the criminal case…which holds up the civil case (custody).   Yet another court date.

Lord help the kids if the magistrate arbitrarily placed the children with the abusive parent (or caregiver) simply because the plaintiff ‘got there first to file charges.   What if the first person to get to the magistrate makes a false statement?  Everyone knows how the system works.

Now for some of the other stake holders.  This may be another story as I have been in contact with Legal Aid, Family Safety, Walkingstick Shelter, Heart-to-Heart, HOPE, Childcare, Attorney General’s office, attorney, Cherokee Indian Police Department, and more.  Most are obligated to serve the plaintiff per their policies and procedures.   I have asked questions and gotten different answers.  I have gotten assistance and I have been denied.  I was comforted that Heart to Heart, HOPE and Dora Reed served the children.

In my particular situation, I am not the biological parent.  Well, neither is the caregiver the child’s custody was placed with.  I am the maternal grandparent.   We are many on this Boundary who deal with DV cases involving our children, grandchildren and extended family.

I am E Li Shi.  And, I do have rights.  I have the right ask questions concerning the safety and physical/emotional health of my grandchildren.  I have the right to report incidents that concern me.  Especially if I suspect illegal activity.  I have the right to request home welfare visits.  And, I have the right to reasonably believe the stakeholder programs involved are doing their jobs, fairly and justly.   Not arbitrarily.

Politicians, I wish to discuss these issues, and others, with you.  Or, should I park on the roadside and talk to your sign?

Thompson is a tribal member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a former Big Cove Council Rep.