Ryan Skeesuck Law Firm, P.C.
Jessica Ryan is an enrolled member of the Brothertown Indian Nation. She graduated from Hamline University, earning her Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1994 and her Juris Doctorate in 1997. Following law school, she served as a Judicial Law Clerk in Hennepin County District Court and then served as a Clerk of Court for two Tribal Courts located in Minnesota.
Since 1999, Ms. Ryan has worked at a Firm that specialized in Federal Indian Law, primarily representing Tribes in a variety of issues, including all matters of tribal self-governance and Federal Indian Law, and litigation in a variety of jurisdictions. Throughout the past 17 years, a large portion of Ms. Ryan’s practice has centered on representing Tribal clients in Tribal Court and State Court proceedings. Ms. Ryan has extensive experience in civil litigation, including family law, child welfare, and conservatorship matters. In October 2016, Ms. Ryan started her own law firm, with a continued focus on Federal Indian Law.
She has drafted legislation for Tribes and States and is active in legislative policy analysis affecting Indian families and collaborates with various tribes, counties and states to develop policy and practice that better serves American Indian families. Ms. Ryan was a key player in renegotiating and drafting revisions to the Tribal/State Agreement, which was executed in 2007; and has drafted revisions to the Minnesota Statutes, including the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act. She participated in developing the Juvenile Judge’s Benchbook – ICWA Chapter, which is a key reference guide for all District Court Judges in the state of Minnesota; and has served on numerous Supreme Court Committees including: Implementation Committee on Multicultural Diversity and Racial Fairness in the Courts (Race Bias Task Force); the Minnesota Tribal Court/State Court Judges; the Juvenile Protection Rules Committee (full committee and subsequently the ICWA subgroup); Public Defenders Workgroup; Parent Representation Workgroups; and has been active in the Children’s Justice Initiative.
Ms. Ryan helped establish the Hennepin County ICWA Guardian ad litem panel and subsequently served as guardian ad litem for ICWA cases for several years. She has served on the Board of Directors for several American Indian non-profit organizations, including The American Indian Policy Center, formerly the American Indian Research and Policy Institute; the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association; and was a founding Board member for the American Indian Cancer Foundation. Presently, she serves on the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center Board; and the Site Council for Bancroft Elementary School. While serving on the various Boards, Ms. Ryan has been elected by her peers to many leadership positions. Ms. Ryan was recently re-elected to serve her tribe, as a Tribal Council member.
Ms. Ryan has been admitted to practice law in Minnesota since 1999 and has been admitted in several Tribal Courts over the years, including the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; Prairie Island Indian Community; Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa Tribal Court; Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals; and has been admitted pro hac vice in several other jurisdictions. Ms. Ryan has argued before the Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Throughout her career, Ms. Ryan has presented at numerous Continuing Legal Education seminars. The presentation topics have varied; however, she is requested to speak often on Tribal Law; the Indian Child Welfare Act and related legislation and policy; Conservatorship/Guardianship matters in Tribal Courts; Mandatory Reporter Requirements; and Tribal Courts. Presently, through the Minnesota Supreme Court Children’s Justice Initiative, she collaborated to develop a curriculum and is providing trainings to judges, attorneys, social workers, guardians ad litem and other stakeholders through state-wide trainings on implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, including the new BIA Guidelines and Regulations. In Minnesota, Ms. Ryan has been invited to conduct trainings facilitated by Tribes; the Minnesota State Guardian ad Litem program; the Minnesota Department of Human Services and various Indian and non-Indian entities.
Ms. Ryan currently serves as the Chief Judge for the Lower Sioux Indian Community Tribal Court and as an Appellate Court Judge for White Earth. Ms. Ryan also served briefly as a Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Appellate Court Judge. Over the course of her career, Ms. Ryan has been active in the Minnesota Tribal Court’s Forum, as well as the Minnesota Tribal Court/State Court Forum, providing extensive efforts to draft and implement the initial Rule 10, originally drafted to efficiently afford full faith and credit to Tribal Court Orders; and efforts to strengthen resources and communication among Tribal Courts; and to bridge relations between Tribal Courts and State Courts.