JEANINE HILL is an experienced general practice attorney with the law firm of Meyer & Njus, P.A., in downtown Minneapolis. She is also a judge for the Sokaogon Chippewa Community located in Crandon, Wisconsin. Jeanine has a passion for helping others in the legal and general community due in part to her diverse background. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Currently, Jeanine is president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association and serves on many boards/committees for the MAIBA, MSBA, and the FBA-MN.
What do you find meaningful in your private practice?
I am a general litigation and transaction attorney, which means every day at the office is new and meaningful thanks to the variety of my cases. However, representing individuals with disabilities is my heart’s work. It is a privilege and an honor to represent these individuals, especially in my capacity as their court-appointed attorney through the Hennepin County Guardianship and Conservatorship Attorney Panel.
Tell us about your experiences as judge for the Sokaogon Chippewa Community in Crandon, Wisconsin.
The Sokaogon Chippewa Community is going through something of a renaissance in that they are building an infrastructure that is in harmony with their traditions and values. I am fortunate to have been appointed as judge during this renaissance. My role is multi-faceted. Currently, the Tribal Court is only in a position to hear a narrow variety of civil matters, even though the community has the inherent sovereignty to hear all civil matters under its jurisdiction. Instead, the majority of the community’s civil cases are heard by the Forest County Court in Wisconsin.
I, along with community stakeholders, will expand the Tribal Court in every sense of the word, beginning with my presiding over current civil cases and undertaking the following work along with other tasks and initiatives: drafting the Clerks Manual, Judges Benchbook, Court Forms, pro se procedures, and Judges Ethics Manual with a proposed Code of Judicial Ethics; participating as a stakeholder in the Judicial Code Revision Project; advising on changes to Rules of Civil Procedure; having input on strategic planning, including the access of grants and the implementation of the work that is funded by those grants; overseeing Tribal Court digitization; and strengthening Tribal-State relations, and Tribe-Tribe relations, which includes quarterly, annual and/or special meetings with other tribal courts and the Wisconsin Supreme Court, court of appeals, and district courts.
What aspects of your work are particularly challenging and how do you meet those challenges?
I am on over a dozen boards and committees for the MSBA, the FBA-MN and the MAIBA. I enjoy this work immensely, but it often presents an availability conundrum. If only I could be in two places at once. As a private practice attorney I am responsible for maintaining and building my book of business as well as being the lead attorney on the majority of my cases, which includes bankruptcy and family law as well as everything in between. I always tell friends and clients “if you have a problem, I am the solution.” Litigation in particular requires careful planning with regard to my extracurricular work activities.
You currently serve as president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association. Would you tell us about your experience with MAIBA and any particular initiatives you’re involved in?
It is truly an honor to serve as president of the MAIBA and to serve on its board and its committees. To me, the MAIBA is family. The MAIBA has given me so much over the past 12 years that, try as I might, I could never repay the support and kindness of its members.
I am most proud to have chaired the annual July MAIBA golf tournament in 2011 and to chair it again in 2017. The annual golf tournament raises money for the MAIBA’s scholarship fund for 2L and 3L law students. I was a recipient of that scholarship when I was in law school and it helped pay for my books.
I am also proud of the MAIBA members for supporting the annual Leap Into the Fight Against Hunger event, held on February 27 this year at The Metropolitan in Golden Valley, which raises money for the Division of Indian Work’s Food Shelf program. The event is for a great cause and is always a lot of fun especially with regard to its live auction.
In your first 10 years of practice, you have been active in several MSBA committees and leadership positions. What motivates you to make that commitment?
The heart of the matter is that I simply enjoy being on the committees and boards. I like and respect my colleagues. We are working in harmony to bring about change for the better. I also like the camaraderie. Even though we are collaborating on serious matters, there is a lot of smiling and laughing as we share tidbits about work and life in general.