Tribal courts need a variety of court forms to conduct business. Forms are used to ask the tribal court to hear cases, to notify parties about tribal court activity, to coordinate with other agencies and entities, and to record the official decisions of the tribal court. Forms are usually developed over time, and are modified to accommodate changes in federal laws, changes in local practices, to clarify or streamline the form to make it easier to use, or to gather specific information. The date of the last revision should always be on the bottom of the form.
If the tribal court is just beginning its development there are forms already developed by other Alaska tribal courts or the State court system than may be modified to meet the specific needs of the tribal court. Court forms can be developed to appear however the tribal court chooses, but they should have a consistent format. If the form has a similar appearance to State court forms, with a similar heading format and so forth, then it is more easily identified as an official court document.
Specific language is often necessary in certain types of court orders. Using forms insures that these words and phrases are contained in the document. This may make the difference between the orders being enforced or not, money being or not being disbursed, or an agency refusing services to a client due to the lack of specific wording.
Some state agencies, such as the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) Office, have worked with Alaska tribes to develop forms that tribal courts can use to access services through that office. The example of the PFD Office came out of tribal courts needing to redirect PFD money for children who were wards of the tribal court.
Forms are generally kept on the computer as a template that can be filled in with information for a particular case. Sometimes there are formatting problems with developing them or when making changes to forms and it is handy to have a computer technician to call upon for assistance. Although working with forms and templates may be somewhat troublesome, good forms are worth the aggravation that sometimes arises when developing them.