Stanford Law School’s Elizabeth Reese Joins White House as Senior Policy Advisor for Native Affairs

May 18, 2023 — Stanford Law School (SLS) Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese, Yunpoví (Willow Flower in the Tewa language) joined the Biden-Harris Administration last month and is serving as the Senior Policy Advisor for Native Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council. Reese will be on temporary leave from SLS.

Reese will work closely with other White House officials and with executive branch agencies on issues impacting Indian Country.

Elizabeth A. Reese

“I am deeply honored to join the Biden administration as I am looking forward to working with tribes and across government agencies on the countless issues which are critical to the well-being and prosperity of Native people in the United States,” said Reese. “I’ll be working at the highest level on what has always driven my legal and academic career: the ability of tribal nations to not only survive, but thrive in the United States. I intend to bring the wealth of knowledge from working at the White House to my scholarship, teaching, and advising.”

Reese is tribally enrolled at Nambé Pueblo, one of the Tewa-speaking pueblos of the northern Rio Grande region and one of the United States’ oldest continually inhabited communities. Reese’s journey from Nambé to a career in the law and then legal academia were featured in a Stanford “Meet our Faculty” profile last year. Her areas of legal expertise include federal Indian law, tribal law, U.S. constitutional law, race and the law, and voting rights law. Her scholarship has focused, in part, on the way government structures interact with identity to shape the rights and powers of racial minorities within American law. Her seminal article, The Other American Law, argued for increased awareness of tribal law as an integral and equal part of the American legal system and for greater recognition of the vast, varied, and often innovative lawmaking happening in Indian Country.

At SLS, Reese taught Federal Indian Law, Tribal Law, a Policy Practicum with the Yurok Tribal Attorney’s Office, and several 1L Discussion Group courses on issues affecting Indian Country. Reese has worked closely with SLS Professor Gregory Ablavsky to build Stanford’s American Indian and Indigenous Law academic and extracurricular offerings

Prior to joining SLS, she served as the Harry A. Bigelow Teaching Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago. Previously, Reese worked at the National Congress of American Indians where she supported tribal governments across the country as they implemented expanded criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. Her comprehensive five-year report on the tribal prosecutions—which documented not only outcomes and unforeseen complications but the surge of tribal law innovation brought on by expanded jurisdiction—has been widely cited from Congress to Supreme Court briefs. 

Reese began her legal career as a civil rights litigator at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund where she led a desegregation case in one of the largest school districts in Florida and worked on a challenge to Alabama’s Voter ID law. She also served as a law clerk to Judge Diane Wood on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Amul Thapar on the Eastern District of Kentucky Court (now the Sixth Circuit). In law school, she was a fellow at the Senate Judiciary Committee and at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division’s Appellate Section.

Reese received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, her M.Phil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge, and her B.A. in Political Science and Native American Studies from Yale University. 

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.