This year, Professor Helen E. Burtis (’07) helmed the Indian Legal Clinic while Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee sharpened her focus on other projects on sabbatical. During the academic year, eleven student attorneys worked over 3600 hours handling 22 cases covering a variety of subjects and venues, including tribal, state, and federal courts. Some of the accomplishments that students realized on behalf of their clients included assisting an elder to officially enroll in her tribe after a lifetime of paperwork complications, creating bylaws for a nonprofit funding youth in the arts, and successfully starting or concluding several appointments of personal representatives in probate cases. Students also researched and recommended options to protect tribal land, to recover expenses for services not performed, and to recover debts.
This was the first year students were able to appear in tribal courts for criminal cases since the start of the pandemic. While still not at full capacity, seven student attorneys made appearances in tribal courts for both prosecution and defense. For many students, this was their first appearance in court.
The ILC also expanded services for Indian Wills Clinics, forging new partnerships with two tribes while continuing two existing partnerships. In September 2021, 3L student attorneys Jacob Broussard, Liliana Elliot, Lindsay Ficklin, Zaine Ristau and Dwight Witherspoon and Professor Burtis traveled to Winterhaven, California for the third Wills Clinic for the Quechan Indian Tribe and in October, the same team also provided the third Wills Clinic for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Temecula, California.
In February 2022, clinic students Gwendolyn Bell (2L), Ryan Maxey (2L), Lena Neuner (2L), Claire Newfeld (2L), Ravynn Nothstine (2L) and David Streamer (3L) and Professor Burtis traveled to Santa Rosa Rancheria, California for the first Wills Clinic for the Tachi Yokut Tribe.
In March, this team remotely provided another first Wills Clinic from ASU Law to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut.
Overall, student attorneys created estate planning documents including wills, healthcare powers of attorney, and financial powers of attorney for 45 tribal clients during these Wills Clinics.
The ILC Team, including Native Vote Fellows Torey Dolan (’19) and Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) and Professor Ferguson-Bohnee, continues to work with tribes to protect tribal land and resources, uphold tribal sovereignty, advocate for cultural protections, support voting rights, and assist with status clarification of Tribes. Notably, Ferguson-Bohnee successfully argued and won a case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that found “intratribal disputes are generally nonjusticiable in federal courts.”
Tarman-Toner presented to the National Congress of American Indians’ Federal Recognition Task Force. Her presentation provided updates on Tribes seeking to gain federal recognition through legislative, judicial, and administrative avenues.
Honore Callingham (’18)
Law Fellow, Indian Legal Clinic, ASU Law
Program Coordinator Sr, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law