ETCETERA - Federal task force includes local attorney

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A Walla Walla man has been tapped to participate on a new federal task force. M. Brent Leonhard, deputy attorney general with Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Mission, Ore., has been appointed to serve on the Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced its formation and inaugural meeting on Jan. 21, fulfilling a pledge he made at the department's Tribal Nations Listening Session in October 2009.

"We know too well that tribal communities face unique law enforcement challenges and are struggling to reverse unacceptable rates of violence against women and children," said Holder said in a release. "The creation of the Violence Against Women Tribal Prosecution Task Force has been a priority for me since my visit with tribal leaders last year, and I believe it is a critical step in our work to improve public safety and strengthen coordination and collaboration concerning prosecution strategies with tribal communities."

Brent will serve with U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg of the District of Nebraska and new chairwoman, six assistant U.S. attorneys working in Indian Country, and five other representatives from tribal governments.

The task force also includes a group of advisors and liaisons from the Justice Department's Office of Violence Against Women, health care professionals and law enforcement officials.

Within a year of convening, the Task Force is directed to produce a trial practice manual on the federal prosecution of violence against women offenses in Indian Country. In the short term, the Task Force will explore current issues raised by professionals in the field, and recommend "best practices" in prosecution strategies involving domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Violence against American Indian women occurs at epidemic rates. In 2005, Congress found that one in three American Indian women are raped during their lifetimes, and American Indian women are nearly three times more likely to be battered in their lifetimes than Caucasian women.

The launch of the Task Force marks another step in the Justice Department's ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities. This effort is driven largely by input gathered from the department's 2009 Tribal Nations Listening Session on Public Safety and Law Enforcement, the department's annual tribal consultation on violence against women, and from written comments submitted by tribal governments, groups and organizations to the Justice Department.

Brent's wife, Carolyn, added that a few years ago he testified in Washington, D.C., in front of the Senate Sub-Committee for Indian Affairs for tribal compliance with the Adam Walsh Act.

Brent published a 152-page paperback book in August 2009 through the American Bar Association Book Publishing, "About Tribal Contracting: Understanding and Drafting Business Contracts with American Indian Tribes." It is useful to those who cover business and public contract law or who are in general practice.

A former assistant Walla Walla city attorney, he is currently an in-house lawyer with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Nita Kinney, a McLaughlin High School business education teacher and yearbook advisor, received the Sykes Employee of the Quarter Award at the Feb. 8 School Board meeting.

A Milton-Freewater resident since 1989, Nita substitute taught in the District prior to teaching full time at Mac-Hi in 2001. These days she teaches business, photography and yearbook classes.

Mac-Hi's yearbook has won awards and circulation has increased dramatically under her leadership, according to a release from the Milton-Freewater Unified School District No. 7. Her photography students have also won numerous awards at the Walla Walla County Fair.

Nita and her husband have three children, all Mac-Hi grads. The Kinneys also have one grandchild, and two more on the way.

Sykes is a major supporter of Milton-Freewater schools.

Besides the MFSD Employee of the Quarter, the company also awards the Athlete of the Month. Sykes has also donated equipment and scholarships to the District.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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