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Tulalip Appellate Justices

The Tulalip Tribal Justice System, Title 2, Chapter 2.05.040 calls for a Tulalip Court of Appeals for matters appealed from the Tulalip Tribal Court. The Northwest Intertribal Court System (NICS) administers the Court of Appeals for the Tulalip Tribes.

Tulalip Appellate Judges appointed to hear appeals at Tulalip are: Ric M. Kilmer, Douglas R. Nash, Elizabeth F.M. Nason, Daniel A. Raas, John C. Sledd, and Jane M. Smith.

Appellate Judges' Biographies

  • Daniel A. Raas has represented the Lummi Nation since 1976 and the Quinault Indian Nation from 1973-1976. He earned a J.D. from New York University School of Law as a Root-Tilden Scholar in 1972, and a B.A. in Chemistry from Reed College, Portland, Oregon in 1969.

    He has represented the Lummi Nation in Tribal, Federal and State Courts in United States v. Washington, (including the shellfish and culvert cases) and other cases, defending tribal sovereignty, implementing Treaty rights, litigating commercial matters and representing individual tribal members in cases where Treaty rights are involved. On behalf of the Lummi Nation Justice Raas was one of the lead attorneys in obtaining an income tax exemption for income earned by Treaty fishers and successfully represented over sixty tribal fishers in U.S. Tax Court. Together with partner, Skip Johnsen, he represented the Lummi Nation in a civil rights case in the early 1980s which resulted in recognition that Indian Tribes could maintain sewer and water service to all residents of the Reservation and require connection to a tribally controlled municipal district where the majority of district commissioners were elected by tribal voters. As result of the suit, Lummi recovered judgments from the State of Washington, Whatcom County, several County chartered sewer and water districts and fourteen individuals of over $1.6 Million, plus the deeding of approximately 50 acres of County owned or claimed reservation land to the Lummi Nation. As result of Justice Raas' representation before the Interior Department and the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, regarding the canceling of a tidelands lease which would have allowed development of Portage Island as a County Park, the Lummi Nation regained ownership and control of Portage Island, a part of the Lummi Reservation.

    Justice Raas was a Founding Trustee of the Washington State Bar Association's Indian Law Section and received the WSBA Pro Bono Award in 1991. He has served as President of the Whatcom County Bar Association, and was a Chair and founder of the Whatcom County LAW Advocates organization serving low income people in Whatcom County. He has spoken at Indian Law Continuing Legal Education programs, and at CLE seminars regarding civil procedure.

    Justice Raas is a Trustee on the North American Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism (the congregational organization of Reform Jews) and is active in the Whatcom County Democrats. His klezmer/Israeli band, What the Chelm, is about to release its third cd.

  • Ric Kilmer, an enrolled member of the Tlingit Indian Tribe, was born in Sitka, Alaska. At age seven, he moved to the Los Angeles area, then to Walla Walla, Spokane, and eventually to Everett by age ten, where he graduated from Everett High School. Mr. Kilmer attended the University of Washington in Seattle, then the UCLA School of Law-where he took one of the first Indian law classes offered in the nation. During the summer after his second year of law school, he clerked at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado.

    Since his admission to the Washington State Bar Association in 1979, Mr. Kilmer has worked exclusively in Indian country-first with Evergreen Legal Services' Port Angeles Office, then as a Muckleshoot Tribal Attorney; for 27 years with the Northwest Intertribal Court System as its Supervising Prosecutor and Indian Child Welfare Representative; and for the Tulalip Tribes as its Prosecutor and, most recently, as its Child Support Program Attorney.

    In addition to his WSBA membership, Mr. Kilmer is admitted to the United States Federal Court-Western Washington District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, the Supreme Court of the United States, and 23 Pacific Northwest Tribal Courts. He is also the Founding President of the Northwest Indian Bar Association (1991).

  • Mr. Nash is a graduate of the University of New Mexico, School of Law where he is now a member of the Indian Alumni Council. He has practiced Indian law since 1971 in numerous capacities including the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor's Honors Program; staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund; and 14 years in a private, solo practice in Pendleton, Oregon, where he represented the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in various capacities. He served as Chief Counsel for the Nez Perce Tribe from 1989-1999. From 1999-2005, Mr. Nash was head of the Indian Law Practice Group at Holland and Hart, LLP. He served as Associate Professor of Law and James E. Rogers Fellow in American Indian Law at the University of Idaho, College of Law, where he developed the proposal for the Indian Estate Planning Project and directed that project until July 31, 2005. In August, 2005, Mr. Nash became Director of the Institute for Indian Estate Planning and Probate at Seattle University School of Law where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Law. The Institute has evolved into the new Center for Indian Law and Policy which will continue the work of the Institute as well as other programs and projects including a tribal dispute resolution project.

    Bar service has included the Idaho Law Foundation CLE Committee; the Fairness & Equity Committee of the Idaho Supreme Court; IOLTA Committee; and the Tribal-State Court Judges' Forum established under the auspices of the Idaho Supreme Court. Mr. Nash currently serves as a Judge on the Tulalip Tribes' Court of Appeals and as Judicial Advisor to the Warm Springs Tribal Court of Appeals. He is the past Secretary and President of the National Native American Bar Association, past Board member of the NW Indian Bar Association and Secretary-Treasurer of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation Board from its inception until 2005.

    Mr. Nash has represented tribes in litigation involving a wide range of issues including treaty fishing rights, damages claims for damage to fisheries, jurisdiction and gaming and has authored numerous articles. He is the Judicial Advisor to the Warm Springs Court of Appeals. He recently served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice on matters involving law enforcement and jurisdiction in Indian Country.

    He is a member of the New Mexico (inactive status), Oregon, Idaho and Washington bars and is admitted to practice before the state and federal courts in those states, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. Other memberships include the Federal Bar Association and Indian Law Section, the Indian Law Sections of the New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho and Washington Bar Associations, the National Native American Bar Association and the Northwest Indian Bar Association.

  • Ms. Nason is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. She is married with 4 children and proud grandparent of 3 grandchildren with another soon to be born in October. She is also the caregiver and provider for her 16 year old nephew and 11 year old grandson. Elizabeth currently resides in her home of 30+ years on the Yakama Reservation.
    Ms. Nason received her Bachelor’s Degree from Heritage University and Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law. She is licensed member of the Washington State Bar Association and admitted to practice in Federal, State and Tribal Courts.

    Ms. Nason was the first enrolled Yakama woman to graduate from law school and to become a licensed attorney. Ms. Nason is currently the Program Coordinator for the Yakama Nation Diabetes Program. Although not within the realm of her legal education and background the Program provides a great sense of personal enrichment for Elizabeth. She is involved in the development and implementation of healthy programs and events in the prevention and management of diabetes for the Yakama people and the Community. She has been in this position since September of 2006.

    Prior to becoming the Program Manager for the Diabetes Program Elizabeth worked as the Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation Tribal Court. During the four year appointment she oversaw the budget of both the Lower, Children’s and Appellate Courts and supervision of the court staff. Ms. Nason presided over matters of both criminal and civil matters as well as jury trials. Being involved in the development of the Domestic Violence Code and implementation of the Healing to Wellness Courts were two of her greatest achievements. Ms. Nason also acted as a Pro-Tem Judge in various Tribal Appellate and Trial Courts and continues to provide judicial services for various Tribal Courts.

    Ms. Nason’s prior work history includes managing her own law office and working as In House Legal Counsel for the Yakama Nation as both an Associate and Lead Attorney. Her outside interests include reading, coaching her grandson’s basketball team and travelling and acting as the manager for her children in the various sports that they participate in. She is also actively involved in drug and alcohol awareness activities and enrichment programs for the Native Youth.

  • Mr. Sledd is a member in the Seattle office of the law firm of Kanji & Katzen, PLLC, which specializes in representation of Indian tribes, entities, and individuals nationwide. Mr. Sledd handles complex litigation, negotiations and other matters in a variety of areas including land and resources, treaty rights, and tribal jurisdiction.

    Mr. Sledd received his B.S., with Honors, in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of Montana, and his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. From 1982 -1989 he was a staff attorney and then Director of Litigation and General Counsel at DNA-People's Legal Services, the nation's largest Indian legal services program, serving tribal communities in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. From 1989 to 1999 he was Tribal Attorney for the Suquamish Tribe of Washington. He then returned to legal services work, directing the statewide Native American Project of Columbia Legal Services and serving as Senior Attorney for the statewide Native American Unit of Northwest Justice Project. He joined Kanji & Katzen in 2006.

    Mr. Sledd is admitted to practice in tribal, federal, and state courts in Washington, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as federal appellate courts and the United States Supreme Court. He is frequent speaker at professional conferences and former Chair of the Indian Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association. In 2004 he received the Pierce-Hickerson award from the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, recognizing outstanding contributions to the advancement and protection of Native American rights, and in 2009 received the President's Award from the Northwest Indian Bar Association. He is a former Commissioner of the Port of Brownsville, Washington, a former member of the Kitsap County Democratic Party Executive Committee, a member of the Board of Kitsap Conservation Voters, and Vice-President of the Kitsap County Historical Society.

  • Jane M. Smith has served as the Presiding Justice of the Tulalip Tribal Court of Appeals since her appointment to the Appellate Bench in 2002. She works full-time as the Administrator/Law Clerk for the Colville Tribal Court of Appeals, a position she has held since 1997. She runs the day-to-day business of the court as well as doing research for the justices when issues arise. She has developed a Reporter for published Colville Tribal Court of Appeals decisions, which includes an indexing card system and a citation system. Her judicial experience began in 1994, as a magistrate for the Colville Tribal Trial Court. She has since served in many different courts as a pro tem and/or appellate judge: Spokane Tribal Court, Quinault Nation Tribal Court, Kalispel Tribal Court, Suquamish Appellate Court, Northwest Intertribal Court System, Coeur d’Alene Tribal Court, and Puyallup Tribal Court. Justice Smith is a past president of the National American Indian Court Clerks Association, where she developed the original certification test for clerks and administrators. She has conducted trainings on tribal court systems throughout the United States. She is a past president of the Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association. Based on her varied experience and expertise, Justice Smith has participated in the evaluations of several tribal court systems. She has been working in and for tribal courts since 1981.

    Justice Smith’s experience has been recognized by the Washington State legal community. She was an original lay member appointed to the Practice of Law Board, where she served for 8 years. She was part of the team that developed and promoted the Legal Technician Rule. She served two terms on the Gender and Justice Commission. Both positions were WA Supreme Court appointments. She represented Tribal Courts on the Washington Fall Judicial Planning Committee for a number of years. She helped educate state court judges about tribal courts and has contributed to many training sessions. She has been asked to speak on several panels which serve to educate the public, law schools, and others about tribal court procedures, both trial and appellate. Justice Smith had taken great pleasure in volunteering her time to several law school moot court competitions as a judge. She was just appointed to the Disciplinary Board for WSBA in 2013. Justice Smith has served on many committees for her own tribe throughout her 30+ years employment with them. In her spare time, Justice Smith enjoys travel, photography, her extended family and friends, her pets, camping, beading and working in her yard.

NW Intertribal Court System Appellate Judges

When NICS receives a new appeal from a tribe, NICS checks that the tribe's judicial eligibility criteria and rules of appellate procedure and assembles a panel (typically three judges) meeting the specific criteria, eligibility requirements and needs of that particular tribe. NICS selects the appellate judges from a roster of approximately forty individuals whom NICS has determined to be generally qualified and eligible to serve as tribal appellate court judges.

NICS' appellate judges have outstanding credentials. Over half of NICS' appellate judges are Native American. Nearly ninety percent are law-trained, including graduates of prestigious law schools such as Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, NYU, Boalt Hall, and the University of Washington. Nearly ninety percent are a member of at least one state bar association, and many are licensed to practice in multiple state and tribal courts. Six of NICS' appellate judges are full-time law professors, nearly a quarter have at least part-time law school teaching experience, and several more have taught law-related courses at the undergraduate level.

Most of NICS' appellate judges have also served as trial and/or appellate judges at other tribes. Several NICS judges have served as Chief Judge for at least one other tribe. Generally, the judges travel to the reservation from which the appeal arises to hear oral argument, although oral argument can also be heard telephonically when travel costs are a concern.