Combining the importance of kinship and culture with progress, the Tonto Apache Tribe installed the tribe's first appellate court.
Sen. Albert Hale of District 2, conducted the Jan. 21 ceremony, installing Chief Judge Thomas Zlaket and Associate Judges Kevin Gover and Jesse Filkins. The oath of office was administered by Senior Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit.
"Our legal system required a legal review," Chairman Ivan Smith said. "We are a sovereign nation. We have tribal customs. We have a hand-picked judiciary and we keep our Tonto Apache Tribe's customs in the highest regard."
Zlaket is the retired chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Gover is a former assistant secretary for the Department of the Interior and is currently a professor of law at Arizona State University. Filkins is a former Maricopa Superior Court judge, a former judge of the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Fort McDowell Indian Community, and currently serves as judge of the Yavapai Apache Tribe of Camp Verde.
"The selection of this very qualified panel by the Tonto Apache Tribe exemplifies the great administration and management of the tribal court system," said William C. Horton, former judge of the Pascua Yacqui Indian Nation of Tucson, "The Tonto Apache Tribe now has the finest judicial panel of any tribe in Arizona. This is a great credit for a small tribe with big aspirations.
"I am impressed with the excellent credentials of this appellate panel. Their opinions will be highly respected everywhere."
Tribal Court Administrator Nathaniel Campbell said the new appellate panel will probably hear their first case in March. He said there are about five cases waiting for appeal.