Judge Anita Dupris is Chief Justice of the Colville Tribal Court of Appeals. She has presided over fifteen Tribal courts and has served as a judge for the Kalispel Tribe for the last three years. Judge Jane Smith is the Court Administrator/Supervisor for the Colville Tribal Court of Appeals. She has presided over nine Tribal courts and has worked for the Kalispel Tribe for three years. Judge Dupris and Judge Smith are both members of the Colville Tribe and have worked together since 1982.
Judge Dupris and Judge Smith recently sat down for an interview with Smoke Signal.
Can you tell us a little about the career path that led you to being a judge for the Kalispel Tribe?
Judge Dupris: Early on I didn’t know that I wanted to be a judge. I began my post-graduate education pursuing a degree in guidance and counseling. Eventually I became a paralegal and I saw what the attorneys did and I thought to myself, “Well, I can do that.” So I got my law degree from Gonzaga and the rest is history.
Judge Smith: I’m not an attorney; I got my training on the job. I’d worked in a lumber mill, as a fire dispatcher and then a dental assistant. When the dental contract ended I found a job as a public safety secretary. The prosecutor didn’t like the negative connotation of “prosecutor” and renamed the office “public safety”— so I ended up with a much different job than I was expecting. I went to college after a year and then returned to work at the Trial Court as an administrator. Throughout this job, my knowledge and job responsibilities grew and that started me on the path towards becoming a judge.
How are Tribal courts different than state or federal courts?
Judge Dupris: Tribal courts are based on Tribal law. We look at culture, traditions, and statutory laws of the Tribe. Also, judges in Tribal courts have more discretion than state or federal courts.
Can you talk about the concept of Restorative Justice where offenders take responsibility for their actions and aim to redeem themselves in the eyes of the community?
Judge Smith: There is a movement in general toward restorative justice versus the more traditional punitive approach. The goal of Tribal restorative justice is to bring people who have done something wrong back into the circle and make them a functioning member of society. In general, Tribal courts consider restorative justice more often than state or federal courts, but many courts are beginning to see the wisdom of rethinking their options.
What are the rights of the defendants who attend Kalispel court?
Judge Dupris: They have the rights congress granted under the Indian Civil Rights Acts which includes:
- The Right to be represented by counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, the Court will appoint one at no cost to you.
- The Right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.
- The Right to remain silent.
- The Right at trial to hear and question witnesses who testify against you.
- The Right to testify at trial and have witnesses testify for you. Witnesses can be made to appear at no expense to you.
- The Right to be presumed innocent until the charge is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The Right to appeal a finding of guilt after trial.
Do you have any favorite lawyer books or television shows?
Judge Dupris: Authors I really like are John Grisham and Scott Turow. On TV, I like the old Law and Order shows, the ones with Sam Waterston.
Judge Smith: I really liked “Paper Chase,” which was a TV series about a group of students who go to Harvard Law School.
What are some of your hobbies?
Judge Smith: I like to camp and hunt with my family. I’ve shot a moose, elk, and a bighorn. The funny thing is that I’ve never shot a deer—maybe this year. I also bead, take photos, golf, and travel.
Judge Dupris: I sew, bead, and read. I also do a lot of cooking. My grandma taught me how to bake pies and she taught me how to make 30 or 40 of them at a time.
Any advice you’d like to give to a young Tribal member who is interested in the law?
Judge Dupris: Yes, I’d say do it. There is a scarcity of Indian attorneys and with the increase in Indian gaming there is plenty of demand. And Tribal courts are always in need of attorneys. It’s a great way to give back to your Tribe.
Judge Smith: I’d say be as well-rounded as you can be. Look at everything you do and see how you can learn more. There are so many options for contributing. For someone who is interested in the Law, it’s important to know that you can gain experience in Tribal court without being an attorney.