NEW TOWN Vance Gillette was sworn in last week as the chief judge of Fort Berthold District Court in New Town.
This is the first time in many years the Three Affiliated Tribes has elected its chief judge. In recent years, the chief judge was appointed by the tribal business council.
Mervin Packineau, chairman of the tribal Judicial Committee and Parshall/Lucky Mound representative to the tribal business council, swore in Gillette as the chief judge in Tribal Chambers Monday.
The tribal election board declared Gillette the winner of the tribes' primary election held Sept. 16. Gillette and El Marie Conklin ran for the position with Gillette receiving 1,095 votes and Conklin 454. Conklin served as chief judge for a number of years.
Gillette grew up on the Fort Berthold Reservation. He was serving as interim judge of Fort Berthold District Court prior to the primary election.
According to his campaign information:
An attorney with more than 20 years experience in Indian law and dealing with jurisdiction issues, he has practical experience in trial and appeals, both civil and criminal cases.
In 2004, he won an injunction case against North Dakota in Mann v. N.D. The case ruled that state fuel taxes on Three Affiliated Tribes' members were illegal and opened the door for refunds.
Gillette has prior judge experience with various tribes. In 1997-98, he served as chief judge at Fort Berthold and cleared out a backlog of old cases. He said the work took care of old cases and fines, and returned bond monies to persons. He said more work remains to be done in this area.
In his campaign information, Gillette said he supports work release for persons who are employed and under a sentence. "No sense to warehouse people when they can be working and supporting a family," he said.