An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Our signal in Bonners Ferry and Omak is seriously impaired due to weather— Learn more here.

Washington Supreme Court Visits Tribal Land For Public Outreach, To Hear Cases

File photo. All nine justices on the Washington state Supreme Court will be in Nespelem Tuesday for public outreach and to hear three cases.
Washington Courts
File photo. All nine justices on the Washington state Supreme Court will be in Nespelem Tuesday for public outreach and to hear three cases.

Washington Supreme Court justices will be in northeastern Washington Tuesday to hear three cases in Nespelem, where the Confederated Tribes of the Colville are headquartered.

Legally, this land is sovereign— which means it’s a separate nation. It may be the first known time state Supreme Court proceedings have happened on sovereign tribal land.

Justices seated on Washington’s Supreme Court have been visiting communities around the state three times a year for roughly a decade as a way to demystify the judicial process and engage the public.

“Education is always helpful and we are learning and we’re thinking of things we haven’t thought about before,” Associate Justice Steve Gonzalez said.

“We’re also learning about the tribal court, but we are also learning about our own in contrast to the tribal court, because you understand your own better when you compare it to another,” he added.

Anita Dupris is the chief justice for the Colville Tribes’ Court of Appeals.

“It’s really actually ground breaking for tribes to actually have the Supreme Court or a state court with this much prestige to come to our reservation,” Dupris said. “And it does show a respect to the tribes and the tribal courts and it shows the working relationship that we have developed over the past few decades.”

During a public forum, the justices openly answered questions on everything from the level of diversity on the panel, to equal justice under state and sovereign laws and even how to run an election campaign. Washington Supreme Court Justices are elected by the public.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

Emily Schwing
Emily Schwing comes to the Inland Northwest by way of Alaska, where she covered social and environmental issues with an Arctic spin as well as natural resource development, wildlife management and Alaska Native issues for nearly a decade. Her work has been heard on National Public Radio’s programs like “Morning Edition” and “All things Considered.” She has also filed for Public Radio International’s “The World,” American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” and various programs produced by the BBC and the CBC. She has also filed stories for Scientific American, Al Jazeera America and Arctic Deeply.