Job Opportunity – Associate Judge

Puyallup Tribe of Indians
Closes: 5/17/2019

Serves as hearing judge for the Puyallup Tribal Court in accordance with the tribal Judicial Administrative Code. The term of the Associate Judge shall be three (3) years from the date of appointment by the Tribal Council. A judge may be reappointed at the expiration of a term in the discretion of the Tribal Council.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  1. Hears cases brought before the court or jury, including, but not limited to criminal, civil, fishing, hunting, youth dependency, traffic, housing, gaming, employment and all domestic violence related cases.
  2. Determines the meaning, interpretation, and application of the Tribal Constitution and laws and, where appropriate, other authorities.
  3. Issues subpoenas compelling the attendance of witnesses at proceedings.
  4. Issues search warrants and warrants to apprehend pursuant to the Tribe’s rules governing criminal procedure.
  5. Determines the amount of bail to be posted.
  6. Issues any order or writ necessary and proper to the complete exercise of the powers and the general authority of the court, including those necessary to compel compliance with orders of the court and to punish persons for failure to comply.
  7. Conducts legal research and writing.
  8. Performs other duties as assigned.

Education and/or Experience
Juris Doctorate degree and three years related experience; or equivalent combination of education and experience. Must have excellent written and oral communication skills, with experience in writing a variety of court related documents. Must have knowledge and understanding of courtroom procedures.

How to apply:
Apply online at
or follow the link on the Puyallup Tribe’s employment page:

If you have any questions about the online application, call (253) 573-7863 or email

To download full job announcement, click here.

Job Opportunities – Yavapai-Apache Nation

Yavapai-Apache Nation

Prosecutor II

Closes: 5/10/2019
The Prosecutor investigates, evaluates and prosecutes juveniles and adults accused of violating the criminal laws of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. The Prosecutor also represents the Nation in dependency and neglect proceedings, including Indian Child Welfare proceedings, before tribal and state courts. The Prosecutor will perform the duties and responsibilities of the position in an ethical manner and assure that justice is upheld according to the laws and custom of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Download full job description here.

Associate Justice of the Appellate Court
Closes: 5/10/2019
The Court System of the Yavapai-Apache Nation is a two-tiered court system consisting of trial and appellate courts. The government of the Nation is operated in accordance with a Constitution and Laws. The Associate Justice will be appointed to a two-year term of office and may be re-appointed upon re-application. Download full job description here.

How to apply:
Please submit your resume and application to:
Yavapai-Apache Nation / Human Resources
2400 W. Datsi / Camp Verde, AZ 86322
P: 928-567-1062 / Fax: 928-567-1064

Job Opportunities – Navajo Nation

Staff Attorney, Chinle Judicial District, Chinle AZ. This position provides complex legal advice and guidance, conducts legal research, and drafts legal documents in support of judges and other court staff. For more information, please see the position description or to apply, visit This position is open until filled.

Associate Attorney, Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ. This position provides a variety of legal advice, research and related legal services in support of the overall operation of the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch; assists with judicial administrative functions, such as researching and recommending policy changes and improvements for overall Judicial Branch. For more information, please see the position description or to apply, visit This position is open until filled.

Court Solicitor, Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ.  This position provides a variety of legal advice, counseling, research and related legal services in support of the overall operation of the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch; assists with judicial administrative functions, such as recommending policy changes and improvements for overall Judicial Branch; shall supervise and oversee all licensed attorneys, law clerk, hearing officers, supreme court clerk, and law clerk interns of the Judicial Branch.  For more information, please see the position description or to apply, visit This position is open until filled.

District Court Judge, Judicial District Court, Navajo Nation Wide. The District Court Judge is responsible in presiding over civil, criminal and family court cases; provides policy direction and guidance in the operation of the Judicial District.  For more information, please see the position description or to apply, visit This position is open until filled.

Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, AZ. This position shall perform work of unusual difficulty, hear arguments, read briefs and conduct research necessary to pass judgment and issue rulings on cases brought before the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.  For more information, please see the position description or to apply, visit This position is open until filled.

Job Opportunity – General Counsel

Havasupai Tribe
Flagstaff, AZ

Application closes: May 15, 2019

Job Summary:
The General Counsel is the principal legal counsel of the Havasupai Tribe and reports directly to the Havasupai Tribal Council. The General Counsel provides professional legal counsel and representation to the Havasupai Tribal government as indicated by the Tribal Council. The General Counsel works closely and independently with the Tribal Council and the Tribal Government staff. Finally, the General Counsel assists the Tribal Council in managing the work of the Tribe’s outside legal counsel.
The Havasupai Tribe has a remote office in Flagstaff, Arizona for professional staff.

  1. The General Counsel shall focus legal representation and work for the Havasupai Tribe on the following priority areas and issues:
    • Tribal Council procedures and day-to-day management of the tribal governmental affairs and operation of tribal enterprises including personnel matters.
    • Legal assistance to managers of tribal programs including housing, health care services, education, social services, elderly services, environmental programs, natural resources, facilities management, and other programs funded by the Tribe and by federal and state
  2. Advises and represents the Tribe in civil liability matters that the Havasupai may become a party to in Tribal and Federal Court.
  3. Supervises the Tribe’s outside/contract attorneys, to help achieve successful completion of their assigned work.

Minimum Qualifications:

  1. Knowledge of the Havasupai Tribe.
  2. Must have at least three years of experience working with Tribal Governments.
  3. Must be an attorney in good standing with a state bar association in the United States without any disbarments.
  4. Must possess knowledge of Tribal, State, and Federal law, including administrative procedures.
  5. Must be able to effectively represent the Tribe in tribal court.
  6. Must pass pre-employment drug and health screening.
  7. Must have demonstrated ability to maintain satisfactory working record in any prior or current employment and the ability to work independently with self-direction and effective time management.
  8. Ability to reach

Application Procedures:
Submit a letter of interest and resume or curriculum vitae to Zach Stevens.

  1. Provide at least 3 professional references and contact information for each.
  2. Provide law school transcripts.
  3. Provide a writing sample of at least 1,000 words from a document prepared in the course of regular work in the past year with confidential information redacted.
  4. Be available for an in-person interview in Supai on the Havasupai Reservation.

To download job announcement, click here.

Where are they now? LynDee Wells (’89)

LynDee Wells (’89, Gros Ventre/Chippewa) works as a tribal attorney for the Suquamish Tribe, a position she has held for eight years.

“This part of my journey has been extremely satisfying – I am excited to come to work each day, truly enjoy everyone that I work with and for, and feel that I’ve made a contribution,” Wells said. “But I’m 67 years old now, thinking it might be time to slow down a bit!”

After retiring in 2010, Wells was invited to work on a one-year project for Suquamish, which moved all Suquamish’s fee lands into trust status. 

“We successfully returned over 35% of the reservation to tribal trust and continue to acquire and repatriate the Suquamish people’s homeland,” Wells said. “Instead of a one-year project, I’ve now been here eight years working on ‘nation building’ projects.”

After Wells graduated from the ILP in 1989, she clerked for Chief Justice Frank Gordon with the Arizona Supreme Court. From 1990 to 2011, she worked in private practice representing tribal governments and entities doing business with tribes. First, she worked with Winthrop and Stimson as an associate in their D.C. offices. She then with Dorsey & Whitney as a partner. 

“The issues I worked on were very diverse — from helping the Elwha Tribe secure legislation that resulted in the successful removal of two dams that had blocked 72 miles of salmon habitat, to helping finance large economic development projects for tribal governments,” Wells said. “When I decided to go to law school, I thought I’d be working on treaty-related issues. I never dreamed that I would be working on multimillion-dollar economic development projects!”

Wells now lives in Washington with nine family members in the house she built in Suquamish last year. She has raised three children and two grandchildren throughout her career.

“It is difficult to remember to strike that work-life balance, but it is worth it,” Wells said.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learned in the classroom that has helped you in your career? 

A: Analytical and critical thinking and getting outside my comfort zone. Law school was the first time I had any experience outside of Indian Country. Classroom experiences were scary at first — first semester I thought I’d been hit with the stupid stick because all of my classmates were so smart!  I had to learn to be more assertive and engage with others who had life experiences so different from mine. Several professors were instrumental in this learning — Professors Michal and Rebecca Birch, Professor Charles Calleros, many, many others and especially Dean Paul Bender.

Q:Is there anything you’ve learned after graduating that you wished you learned in class?  

A: Of course learning and applying what you’ve learned are two very different animals. I think the grounding in solid legal writing and analysis are the most important tools I learned in law school. The substantive elements of the practice of law learned in the classroom are of course important (thank you Professor Calleros for the starting blocks underlying my ability to practice contract law), but I believe the practice of law is often learn as you grow.

Q: What is your advice for current students? 

A: Don’t start your career working for your own tribe. Get as many diverse experiences as you can and bring that knowledge home.

ILP Professors & their Tribal Ties

We are so much stronger when we know effective work is being done so close to home and our ILP faculty are truly instrumental in their work and with their tribes.

Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee (Pointe-au-Chien) has been advocating for her tribe to be federally recognized for years. 

Beside the 573 federally recognized tribes, Pointe-au-Chien is one of the nearly 300 who have not been permitted that status according to federal criteria. Federal recognition allows for self-government and other permits that are restricted from federally unrecognized tribes.

Ferguson-Bohnee is featured in an MSNBC video that discusses the need for tribal recognition, which Pointe-au-Chien has been pursuing for over 20 years. Watch the full video here.

In The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma: Resilience through Adversity, Professor Robert Miller (Eastern Shawnee) wrote the chapter, “Tribal, Federal, and State Laws Impacting the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, 1812 to 1945,” in which he discussed the legal and constitutional history of his tribe. 

Despite the distinct laws that separated the Eastern Shawnee Tribe into at least five separate nations in the 18th century, the Mixed Band of Senecas and Shawnees “operated under established governmental leaders, laws, governing mechanisms and traditional practices” in the early 19th century. 

While going through the history when the U.S. government began to take over, Miller notes every important legal development and act made by the tribal governments and the federal government that has been recorded.

“The Eastern Shawnee Tribe has governed itself and its people since time immemorial,” Miller said in his chapter. “The Eastern Shawnee people are citizens of three political entities: the United States, the states in which they are domiciled and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe. The Eastern Shawnee nation continues today to exercise its inherent sovereign powers and to govern its territory, its citizens and all who enter its jurisdiction.”

Professor Trevor Reed (Hopi) has conducted extensive research about his tribe’s struggle to reclaim culture from museums, archives, universities, government institutions, and more.
In his upcoming publication Reclaiming Ownership of the Indigenous Voice: The Hopi Music Repatriation Project in the Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation, Reed discusses his efforts to reclaim Hopi ceremonial song recordings and their associated intellectual property rights back to the Hopi Tribe.

In his repatriation work, he poses the following questions: “is repatriation best conceived through an appeal to property principles, or are there other principles of ownership and circulation on which repatriation might be more effectively based? And, if Indigenous principles should be the basis for the ownership and circulation of the archived Indigenous voice, to what extent should repatriating institutions be engaged in Indigenous “community politics” as part of their repatriation efforts?” More on this publication will be coming soon.

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Miranda Cyr
Communications Aide, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

ILP Alumni with Concurrent Degrees

Law school is tough enough, why pursue joint degrees? Will this serve Indian Country? Again, we asked our alumni.

  • Robert A. Rosette (’96), Partner and founder of Rosette, LLP
  • Marlene Ray (’97), business manager and philanthropist
  • Perry Riggs (’98), Deputy Executive Director, Navajo Nation Washington Office
  • Theresa Rosier (’98), Deputy General Counsel, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
  • Verrin Kewenvoyouma (’04), attorney, business advisor, and owner of Kewenvoyouma Law, PLLC
  • Courtney Monteiro (’06), Senior Vice President, Sovereign Finance, LLC
  • Bartley Harris (’08), Attorney, Four Rivers Indian Legal Services
  • Kris Beecher (2L), student and Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Navajo Housing Authority
Marlene Jones Ray (’97) is a business manager and philanthropist.

What is your current occupation and how long have you held that position? 

Theresa Rosier: Deputy General Counsel, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Marlene Ray: Currently, along with managing two family businesses, my focus has been on philanthropy and volunteering which has included tutoring/mentoring Native American high school students and managing the Ray Jones Scholarship Fund benefiting California Indians pursuing postsecondary higher education. It is a great honor and privilege to be able to encourage and assist young Native people pursuing higher education either in college or trade, planting seeds for generation after generation benefiting their families, their communities and all Native peoples.

Verrin Kewenvoyouma: I am an attorney, business advisor, and owner of Kewenvoyouma Law, PLLC. We are a boutique law firm which provides legal and business counsel to Indian tribes and their enterprises, primarily in the areas of corporate transactions. I have been the sole and managing partner of our firm for nine years. Prior to that, I briefly worked for another boutique law firm, KPMG, and a large national bank doing commercial finance. 

Kris Beecher: I am currently a JD/MBA law student starting my last year of law school in the fall of 2019. Additionally, I also serve as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Navajo Housing Authority, a position I have held since July 2017.

How have your concurrent MBA and JD degrees affected your career? Do you wish you had chosen a different field? 

Theresa Rosier: The dual JD/MBA degree was an extremely helpful degree to obtain prior to starting my career. The additional exposure that I had at the WP Carey School of Business has helped me in the following ways: 1) I am very comfortable with public speaking, and I always credit that the my MBA training, 2) I work in the area of Indian economic development, and the MBA helps me work through the business side of the transactions, even though I am acting in an attorney capacity, and 3) the MBA program’s emphasis on team work has helped me shepherd large projects and manage staff in an effective manner. 

Marlene Ray: As the first member of my Tribe (Table Mountain Rancheria) to graduate from college (Stanford University) and then to pursue a professional degree, I decided to pursue a joint JD/MBA degree because of the legal issues and business interests that Tribes encounter and knowing in some way I would be representing and advocating for Native peoples or businesses in my career and personal life. At the time, I thought a business degree would complement and enhance my participation in the Indian Legal Program and my interest in environmental and natural resources law, a decision that was proven true for me.

After graduation from law school, I returned to Alaska to work on an environmental case in the legal department at BP Exploration (Alaska), a company I had worked for during college summers. My focus in law school in environmental and natural resources law were a great foundation for my work and interests in Alaska. From Alaska, I moved to Portland, Oregon, to pursue an L.L.M. in Environmental and Natural Resources Law at Lewis and Clark Law School.  Although I did not finish the program, I gained greater knowledge of the natural resources issues facing Tribes in the northwest as well as a new perspective on the economic, historical and legal context of Tribes in the northwest.  Upon returning to California, I was elected onto my Tribe’s board of directors at our casino, an experience that engaged the knowledge I had garnered from law school and business school as well as my previous work.

Verrin Kewenvoyouma: While law school and experience can train you to become a good lawyer, neither legal experience nor law school train you to be a good business person. My MBA has been instrumental for me to not only manage my own firm, but to provide fully competent business advice to my clients. My joint degrees have paid off ten-fold: I have been able to raise my family (and extended family), doing the job I love, and now have opportunities to create opportunity within my own community and the communities within which I work. In short, my own career has been a means to an ends to create opportunity not only for myself, but to empower others as well. When you combine business and legal experience it is not zero sum game: you will find ways to create value for your clients and the people with whom they do business.

Kris Beecher: While working on these degrees I have had the benefit of taking certain aspects of what I have learned in both disciplines and applying them in near real-time to my duties as a commissioner. I do not believe that I could have picked a better match as far as my education and the direction of my career.

In what ways do you use your knowledge of law in your career and everyday life? 

Theresa Rosier: I am an attorney and work with the law every day. I often say, that I am professional problem solver. Most of my day is working across the table with experts from various fields who all are working towards a common goal/result.  We have to work together to get that project or goal done for the client. 

Marlene Ray: Throughout the years, all of my professional and personal experiences have in some way been enriched and informed by the degrees I earned at Stanford University, ASU Law and ASU W.P. Carey School of Business as well as by the people, mentors, classmates and colleagues I’ve met as a result of attending college, law school and business school.  As I mentor young Native students either getting ready to begin college or considering a post-graduate degree, I encourage them to consider their vast array of options, research different programs and schools, talk with current students in the program or school they’re considering, visit the program in action, figure out a budget, know there are people and resources to help them, and most importantly, to believe in themselves that their heart’s desire is important, worthy and possible.

Verrin Kewenvoyouma: A wise lawyer once told me, “you can not become a good business and transaction lawyer unless you’ve done some litigation in those areas as well.”  Even in scenarios where all parties have the best of intentions, as lawyers, we are trained to see the world in the most challenging ways and draft to those situations.  Indeed, in litigation contract matters I have seen those situations come to life.  While we can’t move through the world walking on egg shells, I’ve found that no matter the scenario, business, law, or otherwise, if you approach a situation recognizing all foreseeable options, very importantly, the solutions as well, you’ll be well prepared for anything.  In short, think of all the challenges and benefits of your decisions, and be prepared. 

Kris Beecher: Whether I am working on projects as a commissioner or advocating for issues that I care about, my knowledge of the law informs my decisions and the way I approach potential situations. With a background in both business and law, I have a much broader range of understanding of why and how people and businesses make the decisions they do.

Kris Beecher (2L) is a current student pursuing his MBA and JD degrees,

Would you recommend a law degree or concurrent degrees to prospective students? What would you say to a student considering earning these degrees? 

Theresa Rosier: I ask people what they really want to do, if they tell me that they want to be a prosecutor, litigator, tax attorney, etc., then, I recommend that they only attend the law school. If people talk about promoting business in underserved communities, working with non-profits, or they are more open minded in their professional goals, I recommend that they explore either the joint degree or the MBA degree (without the legal degree). The MBA program at ASU is fantastic, and can open so many doors to people. If you want to be a litigator, the MBA program doesn’t add a lot of value.  If you want to work in an in-house setting or in the commercial transaction setting, the MBA is extremely helpful.M

Verrin Kewenvoyouma: I highly recommend the joint JD and MBA program for anyone who may be pursuing a career in business, business law, or seeks to manage a firm. While I can attach a price tag to the one extra year I spent in grad school to earn my MBA, the value has been immeasurable and continues to pay off. I would also be happy to speak to any student who may be considering these degrees. 

Kris Beecher: I would absolutely recommend any prospective JD student to consider any of the concurrent degrees available at their school. A great way to set yourself apart from the rest of the law students you will be graduating with is earning a concurrent degree. Having a broader background of education would only be an asset moving forward.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Verrin Kewenvoyouma: Much of law school is structured on the individual, and that make sense: you are the only one who has to take the LSAT and pass the bar exam.  The analytical skills you learn have to be developed on an individual basis.  However, in business school, much like life and in a law practice, there is definitely much more comradery and team orientated projects.  You quickly learn how to leverage your own strengths and weaknesses to work with other people for the best outcome of your collective colleagues and clients.  I think the experience of both programs creates a good contrast of what you should experience in life after school and in practice.  Along those lines, the relationships I made in both programs, and especially in the ILP, I still value very much today.  On a daily basis I work with folks who were graduates of the program, and today, in fact, I’ve spoken to no less than four ASU ILP grads on varying matters. 

Kris Beecher: If I could go back and do it all over again, I would make the exact same decision to pursue a JD/MBA. In fact, I would probably advocate harder for more of my colleagues in law school to pursue the MBA component.

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Miranda Cyr
Communications Aide, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Alumni Tribal Court Judges – Pt. 2

This is the second part of the Alumni Tribal Court – Experience and Advice series.

There are a variety of areas of law that are offered at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and many students have wondered: ‘What can I do with my law degree?’ We asked some of our alumni to share their experiences, expertise and advice on becoming a tribal court judge and the responsibilities in that position.

  • Shawn Attakai (’00) tribal appellate court judge for the Yavapai-Apache Nation Court of Appeals in Camp Verde, Arizona
  • Sean Cahill (’11) tribal appellate court judge for Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Petoskey, Michigan
  • Joseph Flies-Away (’04) former chief judge of the Hualapai Court of Appeals in Peach Springs, Arizona
  • Anita Jackson (’93) former pro tem judge for the Sitka Tribal Court in Sitka, Alaska

(Judge Sean Cahill being sworn in)

Q: How long have you served as a tribal court judge?

Shawn Attakai: I was appointed in June 2018.  I have been a judge for approximately one year. 

Sean Cahill: Has sat on the Appellate Court of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa since 2015.

Joseph Flies-Away: It wasn’t a choice, really. It’s just what happened. I was working for the Hualapai Tribal Nation as an economic development planner/grants writer and then became a tribal council member. Then the chairman said, “Somebody should go to law school,” and from that point on it was put in my head that I should go. I went to law school to be helpful to the tribe with economic development. The lawyers supposedly always had the answers. So I went to law school. After completing the first year I was appointed chief judge, which was not a plan of mine, but it happened. I was the chief judge for a two-year appointment after one year of law school. I learned how to “do” law while acting as a judge, not from law school. Then after the two years I went to the Kennedy School at Harvard University. After that I came back to Arizona and started law school all over again and finally finished in 2004. I have served as a pro tem judge for other courts as well. Much of my work as judge (at Hualapai) was in the wellness court. Working as a judge was a serendipitous thing; it just happened.

The late Delbert and late Earl [Havatone], both former Tribal Chairmen of the Hualapai Indian Tribe, followed each other in their leadership. The two of them were sitting around and one of them said to me, “You should go to law school.” I had thought about it as a kid, being a lawyer or a doctor. I think like a lot of kids do, I guess. When they said it, it made sense. We always had to have a lawyer present, because every time there was a question they had to look to the lawyer, and I think Delbert and Earl didn’t like that. They were not Hualapai. They knew I could do it.

[I was approached about becoming chief judge when] my cousin called me and said, “They have the chief judge job open. Do you want to do it?” I said, “I’ve only been in law school one year,” but she said, “I think they want to appoint you.” I could have said no and not apply, but that wasn’t the kind of thing you do.

Anita Jackson: I served as a Tribal Judge for 16 years.

In December 1979 I was hired to work as the Juvenile Advocate for my tribe’s Legal Aid Program. This was the first exposure I had to the law and I realized then that I wanted to have a career in law. In the spring of 1980 I applied for the Tribal Juvenile Court Judge and was selected (our Tribal Council appoints our judges). I took my oath of office in June 1980 at the age of 27 and served for two (2) four-year terms.

I have been elected to serve on my Tribal Council for this next term. I will be sworn-in on May 6. A new chapter and another opportunity to serve my people in a different role.

(Judge Anita Jackson, 1980’s)

Q: Why did you choose to pursue this career? What was your pathway to serve as a tribal court judge? Did your time at the ILP impact this decision in any way?

Shawn Attakai: Currently, I am serving as a judge on a part-time basis. My current job is a staff attorney advising the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch. My judge job is serving the Yavapai-Apache Court of Appeals. I was told that this job as a court of appeals judge has a light caseload. So far we have only decided motions. However, I joined the ranks of judgeship hoping to help develop the tribal jurisprudence. I am taking baby steps toward this career. I have been advised, culturally-speaking, that as a young person, I should not be at the forefront of Navajo leadership. Although I went to school at an Ivy League and at ASU, I respect my elders and culture. I can speak my language, but for now, baby steps. The ILP definitely had a part in my decision to become a judge. Judging for the [26th Annual National NALSA] moot court [hosted at ASU Law in 2018] helped me change my perspective from the attorney’s table to a view from the bench.  I think the moot court is valuable in terms of building your skills and seeing how other judges decide their cases. I have served as a commissioner at the Navajo Nation and this moot court experience is paying off there too.

Sean Cahill: The ILP, and specifically the Indian Law Clinic, introduced me to tribal courts and showed me their importance in tribal government. I sit on the Appellate Court of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa, where I am enrolled. When a justice position opened up in 2015, I had been working in-house for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The Justice position presented an opportunity to serve my tribe, and it has truly been an honor to sit on my tribe’s court.

Joseph Flies-Away: I went to law school where I tried to understand what law is. Law to me became something very spiritual, something that connects us or disconnects us. I started putting the law into my paradigm and then my two dimensional model became spherical, and as I kept working at it, all these different parts—the individual, the group, conflict or cooperation—it all just fit.

Anita Jackson: Initially my cases were limited to cases where children were alleged to have been neglected, abused or were juvenile offenders. I grew up on my reservation so I was aware of the state of the economic and social standings of my tribe, of family ties and interrelations.

I began presiding over cases involving adults toward the end of my first term. Because our reservation was originally exempt from PL 280, the State has very little jurisdiction on the reservation so our court exercises jurisdiction over almost all legal matters. This includes matters involving criminal actions committed by Indians and non-Indians, domestic relations, civil regulatory and adjudicatory cases, probate, traffic, and the exercise off-reservation treaty-reserved rights such as off-reservation hunting and fishing.

The long-time Chief Judge resigned early in my second term and although I applied, I was not selected to fill that position. The new Chief Judge came from North Dakota and I was assigned to “show him the ropes”, which I did. For several reasons he left a couple of years later and I was temporarily appointed as the Chief Judge until the Tribe hired a non-Indian man to replace him; again I was required to bring him up to speed.

Q: What have you learned in your current position that has been different from positions that you’ve previously held?

Shawn Attakai: The perspective of being a lawyer in the courtroom is very different than being a judge.  Lawyerly work requires advocacy on behalf of your client.  You mainly advance only one side of the argument, the side that is beneficial to your client.  Judicial work requires looking at the whole situation, and being impartial and looking at the legal issues from both sides.  Impartiality is probably one of the biggest cornerstones of the adversarial court system.  

Sean Cahill: I work both in-house at Grand Traverse Band and on the court at Little Traverse Bay Bands, so I experience the distinct roles of advisor/advocate and arbiter. Obviously those roles are different, but fulfilling them regularly has shown me just how stark that difference is.

Anita Jackson: Although there was, and still is, no education requirement for our tribal court judges I could see that I would never advance without formal education credentials so I resigned in August 1988 and proceeded to complete my bachelor’s degree and earn a law degree. I earned a Bachelor of Science from Oregon State University in June 1990 and enrolled at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in August 1990. I earned my JD in 1993. I did serve a three-year term as a judge of our Court of Appeals from 1988-1990.

My career plan was to eventually return to my tribe and serve as the Chief Judge. I was appointed Chief Judge in 2005 after working in a variety of other law-related positions with my tribe and served in that position until October 2010.

(Judge Attakai being sworn in)

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in a position as a tribal court judge?

Shawn Attakai: The main advice is to learn your language and culture.  American law schools such as ASU Law produce a lot of lawyers fluent and excelling in Anglo-American law, but we have to remember that we are tribal people.  As the Marshall Trilogy mentions, we Native Nations are “separate and distinct.” We are dependent on that distinction.   If we tribes were not “separate and distinct,” then there would be no “tribe,” no tribal judiciary for us to be tribal judges. So that our great-great-grandchildren can be “tribal” judges, I think it is important today to know your language and culture and to implement that knowledge into your work as a judge.

Sean Cahill:
I lucked into the position in the sense that I am a tribal member who lives fairly close to my rural reservation. That said, I was able to secure the nomination because knowing about the vacancy gave me an opportunity to apply. First, then, pay attention to the tribes in whose court you would like to serve. Some actively recruit candidates, some post widely, and some do not. Second, the key for me to parlay the nomination into an appointment was preparation. Know the tribe’s circumstances and its laws—its constitution, statutes, and customary and common law. Finally, it can’t hurt to have experience in a court. I clerked as an extern for Maricopa County judges during my 3L year, and that experience, along with the bench memos and opinions I wrote, proved invaluable. Finally, it goes without saying: Get the best grades and job experience that you can. Many tribes are balancing the need to have their judges and justices come from their community with the desire to appoint the most qualified and distinguished candidates.

Joseph Flies-Away: Somebody said to me, “It must be exciting being a judge.” I remember looking at that person and saying, “Exciting? It’s awful.” They looked at me, surprised. When you’re a judge, you’re adjudicating all types of cases and you know all the bad things, all the allegations of bad things, which are horrible and sad. And of course, not all of the allegations are true but you have to hear about it all, deal with all the people, and deal with the ones that are hurting. It was never a “fun” experience to be a judge.

The only part that’s “fun” maybe is the legal aspect; figuring out what the law means and how it is applied in a situation. I like to see how the tribal code applies to a case, how legal definitions are applied, what words mean. That, to me, is the interesting part, not whether someone beat up a person or burned down a house or abused a child. There’s no excitement, no happiness, no goodness in that part of it. It’s not a fun job. I don’t think I could ever be a full-time judge again.

Anita Jackson: Tribal courts exercise various types of jurisdiction depending on their land base, whether they are subject to certain federal laws, treaty-reserved rights, water rights, and so forth. It is important, therefore, to know how to balance traditional tribal laws with recent tribal statutory laws, and relevant state and federal laws.

True separation of powers rarely exists in tribal governments and, therefore, tribal councils often try to interfere with tribal courts. It is important to educate tribal council members on the benefits of separation of powers within the tribe to ensure checks and balances on governmental powers exist.

Q: Please share your thoughts about the role of tribal courts in tribal communities.

Shawn Attakai: Tribal courts play a vital role in tribal nations and their communities.  Making decisions using your own tribal law is an exercise of sovereignty.  The act of making decisions as a court goes to the tribe governing itself and its territory.  I cannot stress enough the importance of this function.   

Sean Cahill: From what I’ve seen, tribal courts are deeply embedded in their communities. They play a role in governance and promote healing, in addition to the traditional functions of resolving disputes and meting out justice.

Joseph Flies-Away: It’s important for all sovereigns, states, as well as tribes, for people to work together. They have to learn to do that. They need to work together because there are a lot of overlapping issues and situations that require them to do so. It’s very important to collaborate, but there are limitations to it. If people aren’t able to respect each other, then they shouldn’t work together too closely, because I’ve been in situations where you could tell, there was no respect for the other—mostly Anglos toward the Indians, though it happens vice versa as well. We may be different, look different, and do things differently, but we can’t participate in cooperative measures if there’s no respect. There are many people out there who still don’t trust the other people. They say right out, “Well, we can’t trust Arizona; they’re going to act like this, or we can’t trust the judge in Mojave County or whatever.” Over time, I think, as more respect is built, a better collaborative scenario would be available. Both systems would benefit from understanding that, “Wow! They’re doing something differently, we should try that,” or “Their technology is this way, we should try that.” There are things to learn from each other in a very good way.

Anita Jackson: Tribal courts have a very important place in tribal government. They generally began as criminal courts but have grown and expanded over the past fifty or so years to provide resolution of person-person conflicts as well as non-criminal person-tribe conflicts. As tribal courts expand they are challenged by not only tribal leaders but also non-tribal governments and people. The integrity of tribal judges is often questioned so it is very important to have the courage to stand firm on principles and law.

There is nothing more satisfying than working for your own tribe and at the same time, there is nothing harder or more taxing. Do not expect positive changes that you make as a tribal judge to be immediate nor initially appreciated. You must have courage, a strong backbone, thick skin and keep a long-view of justice in your own community.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Shawn Attakai: I hope that in the future, I mean way in the future, that we maintain our cultural identities as tribal nations.  We put in a crazy amount of effort in taking the LSAT, passing 1L, passing the bar, and succeeding in this society as lawyers.  We can put that same energy into learning and re-vitalizing our languages and traditions.  I believe our effectiveness as tribal legal practitioners would multi-fold, especially for the younger generations, if we could all do that.

Note: Quotes included from the Center for Court Innovation’s interview with Flies-Away. Read the interview here.

Read the first part of the Alumni Tribal Court – Experience and Advice series here.

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Miranda Cyr
Communications Aide, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Job Opportunity – Public Defender

Public Defender, Position #2019-01610
City of Glendale
Glendale, AZ

Salary: $45,000.00 Annually


Note: First review of applications – May 6, 2019. Provide representation to defendants of the Glendale City Court.

Essential Functions:

  1. Must have strong working knowledge of substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, and rules of evidence.
  2. Must be able to conduct the defense of clients in a professional, skilled manner consistent with standards set forth in the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct and case law defining the duties of defense counsel in criminal cases.
  3. Must have the ability to manage a high-volume caseload while maintaining adequate levels of communication and attention to individual clients.
  4. No more than 400 cases will be assigned to the Attorney during the term of the agreement, Treatment Court defendants will not be counted toward the maximum 400 cases annually assigned.
  5. Must be able to make regularly scheduled court appearances; conduct case evaluation, investigation and preparation including but not limited to witness interviews, legal research, motion preparation, and related work as required; provide qualified and approved substitute counsel when unable to make regularly scheduled court appearances.
  6. Must provide personal consultation with Defendants prior to pretrial disposition conferences unless extraordinary circumstances prevent such a meeting.
  7. Attorney must use reasonable diligence in maintaining personal contact with each Defendant until the Defendant’s case or cases are terminated, and notify Defendants of official court action resulting from Defendant’s nonappearance at scheduled court sessions. Occasional unscheduled matters may arise.
  8. Must be adept in negotiating and recognizing appropriate settlements and plea agreements.
  9. Must have the ability to recognize potential conflicts of interest requiring recusal.
  10. Must have substantial experience in completing jury and bench trials.
  11. Must be experienced or knowledgeable in filing appeals to Superior Court, the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court.
  12. Must have considerable experience representing defendants charged with DUI and domestic violence related offenses.
  13. Must have internet and email access and the ability to respond to electronic communications within 24 hours.
  14. Must be willing to consult with in-custody defendants in the Glendale City Jail.
    Experience as a practicing criminal defense attorney Graduation from an accredited school of law. Must be an active member in good standing with the Arizona State Bar Association.

Minimum Qualifications & Special Requirements:
Experience as a practicing criminal defense attorney Graduation from an accredited school of law. Must be an active member in good standing with the Arizona State Bar Association.

Applications may be filed online at:
5850 W. Glendale Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85301

To download job announcement, click here.

Job Opportunity – Deputy Chief Prosecutor

Navajo Nation
Office of the Prosecutor
Window Rock, AZ

Requisition No: DOJ01017394
Closing Date: 4/30/19 (5 p.m.)

Duties and Responsibilities:
Under administrative direction of the Chief Prosecutor, provides administrative and managerial support to the Chief Prosecutor and the Offices of the Prosecutor. Fully participates and shares in the overall management of the administrative office and district offices and exercises full prosecutorial authority; supervises provisional staff. Assures that the success of specific functions are consistent with program plans and objectives by monitoring and evaluating program progress. Makes recommendations with the Chief Prosecutor in changing program plans, goals, work plans, schedules, procedures, and etc. as necessary; assists with the development and implementation of policies, procedures and budgetary functions. Accomplishes functions through supervisors and prosecutors at the administrative and district offices. Coordinates all central administrative office activities with various governmental agencies engaged in the investigation and prosecution of criminal and civil matter related issues.

Provides technical guidance to administrative and district staff and related law enforcement agencies, government, and state agencies. Assist in research and gathering of physical evidence with law enforcement and related agencies. Review and assign cases to supervisors and/or Senior Prosecutors. Determine importance of case(s) warranting prosecution. Assist prosecutorial staff in the development of case plans, calendaring, strategies, evidence, and other investigative matters of significant importance. Attends arraignments and brings cases before the courts of law within the purview of the Navajo Nation. Represents the office and serves on various committees, organizations, state and federal agencies. Maintain effective work relationships with officials from all levels of government and the general public. Address oversight committee on related prosecutorial administrative matters. Assist and provide recommendations on annual budgetary functions and reporting. Address personnel matters in colorization with the Chief Prosecutor. Serves at the Pleasure of the Chief Prosecutor.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • A juris Doctorate; and eight (8) years professional experience as a state licensed attorney with progressive experience as a trial lawyer in criminal/civil law, administrative law, employment or related fields; two (2) years of which must have been managing and supervising a law office (private or government legal department). Current admission to any state bar with the intention of seeking and securing admission to the Navajo Nation Bar Association and either the Arizona, New Mexico or Utah State Bar within one year of date of hire.

Special Requirements:

  • Depending upon the needs of the Nation, some incumbents of the class may be required to demonstrate fluency in both the Navajo and English languages as a condition of employment.

Special Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:
Knowledgeable in Navajo Nation Laws and applicable state and federal statutes, rules, and regulations; Federal Indian Law, prosecution, juvenile justice and white collar crime; principles of management, administration, supervision, accounting, bookkeeping, etc.; principles and practices of methods of legal research, principles of criminal law and appeal procedures related to violations of Navajo Nation laws and applicable state and federal statues, rules and regulation; court processes, administrative law processes and legal terminology; legal strategies, their development and presentation and supervisory methods and techniques. Skilled in legal research, effectively assessing, interpreting and applying complex laws; assessing analyzing and assessing financial and other records to make recommendations and decision on prosecution; in communicating effectively and overseeing the effective prosecution of violation of Tribal law; in establishing and maintaining an effective and cooperative working relationship with numerous officials of the Navajo Nation, attorneys, litigants, witnesses, interested parties and others; and in operating a personal computer utilizing a variety of software, programs, applications, and software.

For full job description, click here.
For job listing, click here.