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Jillian Caires, 2019 Leaders in Law

Advancing the practice

Educating, serving and advocating in tribal and real estate law


Jillian H. Caires profile.

Jillian H. Caires helps protect indigenous peoples in northern Idaho and is know for her writing and legal scholarship. Photo by Pete Grady.

Fulfillment and success are more than just cases won for Jillian Caires.

Her peers know her for her efforts outside the courtroom, including her service on four professional boards. As a board leader, Caires strives to educate her peers in the practice by writing journal articles and speaking about advancements in real estate practice and tribal affairs.

“The profession of the law goes well beyond the representation of clients,” writes Michael Howard, immediate past president of the Idaho State Bar, in a letter of recommendation. “It requires the uncompensated time, effort and participation of people like Jillian to make it work.”

Advocating tribal sovereignty

Caires most recently represented the Schitsu’umsh Coeur d’Alene Tribe in successful arguments for removal of a boat garage and pilings that encroached on lake water on the reservation.

“Those judgments are recognizable and they are enforceable and they are legitimate judgments from the court of a sovereign nation,” says Caires. She was surprised at how many people didn’t realize that.

Caires says her most rewarding case was working with a family to bring the body of their daughter home when they were being denied the right to have her body for burial. The case took less than a week but “it felt like one of the longest weeks ever,” she says.

“Partially, what draws me to (tribal affairs) is the issues in those cases are much more intricate and complex,” says Caires. “Not to say that other cases aren’t as important, but it in those situations, you’re protecting the tribe’s rights, it’s been their land for hundreds of years, so protecting those rights feels particularly meaningful.”

2019 Leaders in Law magazine

Click here to read the full 2019 Leaders in Law magazine.

A lover of puzzles

As developers submit requests to build throughout Idaho, the number of real estate cases Caires sees is increasing.

“There are a lot of complex rules involved with real estate … but it’s not a black-and-white practice area,” Caires says. “It’s like solving a puzzle. I like that.”

The litigation issues remain mostly the same, as Idaho law doesn’t change very quickly, Caires says, but “big ideas” and “creative solutions” are often brought to the table.

“Seeing what some of these developers come up with and do is pretty awesome, because I’m not that brave,” Caires says with a chuckle. “It’s just neat to see people put their passion into something and to be able to kind of be alongside them cheering them on and helping them to get it done.”

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