ASU Indian Legal Clinic goes to Washington, D.C.

Last month, the Indian Legal Clinic traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a hearing that focused on the situation of Indigenous Peoples and forced displacement in the context of climate change in the United States before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. The request for a hearing was made on behalf of four Louisiana Tribes and the Village of Kivalina.  

Student attorneys Ruben Zendejas (3L) and Brittany Habbart (3L) were assigned the case with Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee. Working with Earth Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and the Georgetown Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, the ILC assisted in preparing a written submission in support of the thematic hearing and preparing witnesses for the hearing. Blair Tarman-Toner (’20) also assisted with the written submission. Ferguson-Bohnee gave the rebuttal statement on behalf of the petitioning Tribes during the Thematic Hearing. While in Washington, ILC students attended a meeting at the White House. 

“Ruben and I met different tribal leaders and advocates and learned about their experiences with climate displacement or dealing with the federal recognition process,” said Habbart. “Hearing about issues directly from people who live it or work with it is always invaluable.” 

Your vote, your voice

2022 is another year that has seen Arizona Native voters and their rights disproportionally challenged on the ballot. “Native advocates say voter ID rules in Proposition 309 could disenfranchise Arizona Indigenous voters,” said Native Vote fellow Torey Dolan (’19) in her interview with the AZ Central. The article discusses the impact that Proposition 309 will have on Tribal communities if passed. Proposition 309 would limit the forms of identification that are acceptable for in-person voting and would eliminate many forms of Tribal identification that voters currently rely on.

Despite this ballot measure and redistricting issues, the Indian Legal Clinic’s Native Vote Election Protection team organized and strategized with its partners to remain steadfast leading up to Election Day. Dolan presented at the Tribal leaders meeting hosted by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and discussed the propositions’ impacts on Tribal communities and Native voters.

Indian Legal Clinic student attorneys Mallory Moore (3L) and Autumn Shone (3L) led and conducted two trainings for volunteers.

This year, 66 volunteers served as Election Protectors stationed at multiple polling locations to assist voters at 9 Tribal communities: the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

On Election Day, the Native Vote team worked with the Navajo Nation to assist in emergency litigation due to delays in the opening of a polling location in Many Farms, Arizona. Katherine Belzowski, an attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice Economic and Community Development Unit, said “The Indian Legal Clinic was instrumental to the Navajo Nation’s success in the 2022 Election. ILC worked with the Navajo Department of Justice (NDOJ) to monitor state polling locations across the Nation. With ILC’s assistance NDOJ was able to timely investigate and respond every concern submitted to the ILC and NDOJ voting hotline.” 

Thank you to all volunteers, advocates and allies for serving as Election Protectors and organizing the Native Vote power! With your help, we were able to assist voters through the hotline and in the field, ensuring that Native voters were able to cast ballots free from intimidation and without undue challenges. This year’s ILC Native Vote leadership team includes dedicated ILP Native Vote Fellows Torey Dolan (’19) and Blair Tarman-Toner (’20), student attorney leads Mallory Moore (3L) and Autumn Shone (3L), and student attorneys Chad Edwards (3L), Brittany Habbart (3L), Michael LaValley (3L), and Ruben Zendejas (3L), under the supervision of Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee.

Building Communication between Tribal & Federal Courts & the Agencies Administrating Justice in Indian Country

Friday, October 21, 2022
9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse, Jury Assembly Room
401 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ, and via Zoom

There is no charge for this event. Space is limited and registration is required.  CLE may be available.

Registration for In Person: rsvp.inperson@azd.uscourts.gov

Registration for Virtualrsvp.virtual@azd.uscourts.gov

Link to More Information

Questions: humetewa_chambers@azd.uscourts.gov

Indian Legal Clinic tour Gila River

On Sept. 9, the Indian Legal Clinic students were sworn in to the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Court by Judge Anthony Hill (’06). “I had a great experience and was honored to meet Judge Anthony Hill,” said Chad Edwards (3L). “Being sworn in made me feel the most like an attorney since going to law school.”

“I am extremely grateful to have been sworn into the Gila River Indian Community Court by Judge Hill, who is a true role model for Indian Country judiciary success,” said Michael LaValley (3L). 

 

Student attorneys toured the facility and observed several hearings. GRIC prosecutor Ammon Orr (’16) explained the mechanics of a bail hearing they watched and gave the students some insight on practicing in tribal courts. The students also observed Charlie Giff in arraignments and met with the Chief Prosecutor Lando Voyles.

“Before this visit, I was not particularly excited about trials or criminal proceedings,” said LaValley. “After having the opportunity to observe the court chambers and visit with Gila River prosecutors, it sparked an interest as to the effective advocacy that can occur for Tribes from inside the courtroom.”

We appreciate the Gila River Community Court for the continued support.

ILC: 2022 Year in Review

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

Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator Sr, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

ASU ILP’s Native Vote Recap

This year, Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee and Native Vote Fellows Torey Dolan (’19) and Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) worked on a variety of voting rights issues. The goals of the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project at ASU Law for this year was to: analyze the 2020 election cycle, track democracy developments in the state legislature and with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and prepare for the upcoming midterm election.

Mapping & Redistricting
The U.S. Constitution requires states to redraw their congressional and state legislative district boundaries every 10 years following each decennial Census. The goal of redistricting is to protect the constitutional right to “one person, one vote” by ensuring that each district has approximately the same number of people. In Arizona, the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) is tasked with redrawing the State’s congressional and state legislative districts. 

Why It’s Important for Arizona Native Voters
Ensuring that the redistricting process remains fair is critical for Native American voters in Arizona, as it determines whether voters can elect their candidates of choice into state and federal offices. The redistricting process ultimately determines access to resources as well as a communities’ political representation.

ILC Redistricting Efforts
Tarman-Toner joined the Native Vote team as a Native Vote Fellow and hit the ground running by tracking the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission as they redrew the State’s congressional and legislative districts. Tarman-Toner tracked the Commission’s deliberations over the course of its fourteen decision-making meetings as well as tracked the public comments made at thirty-two public hearings. The ILC created a redistricting guide, regularly presented to Tribes regarding the redistricting process, and assisted Tribes in drafting public comments. The ILC submitted oral and written testimony regarding compliance with the Voting Rights Act, maintenance of a strong Native American majority-minority district, and respecting reservation boundaries as communities of interest.

Tarman-Toner also created a redistricting summary from the 2021 redistricting cycle to share with Tribes.

Dolan was recently quoted in The Guardian’s article “Redrawn Arizona congressional map drains Native American voting power.”

Litigation
In September 2021, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe reached a settlement with Pima County to restore  an in-person early voting location on the reservation. This provides voters living on the reservation an opportunity to vote in-person early, safely, and in their community just as other Arizonans have voted across Pima County for the past four years. The settlement agreement also provides for cooperation on voter registration and outreach. Student attorneys at the time Aspen Miller (’21), Jens Camp (’21) worked with Ferguson-Bohnee and Dolan to prepare for the preliminary injunction hearing in Fall 2020. 

In April 2022, ILP legal team defends voting rights in Arizona. ILP advisory council member Judith Dworkin (JD ’86) and Ferguson-Bohnee represented the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona in an amicus brief regarding the constitutionality of early voting.  Dolan and Tarman-Toner assisted in drafting the brief.

Testimony and Reports
The Native Vote Election Protection Project actively to protect the rights of Native American voters in Arizona. On October 27,  Ferguson-Bohnee testified at the “Voting Matters in Native Communities Hearing” before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Native Vote Fellows Dolan and Tarman helped prepare the testimony that was delivered to the Committee.

Dolan and Tarman-Toner co-authored an article discussing the Native American Voting Rights Act for the Daily Journal.

The team issued its 2018 Native Vote Election Protection Project Report, which details voter issues faced by Tribal voters in the 2018 election. 

Legislative Analysis
Throughout the 2022 Legislative Session, Dolan and Tarman-Toner tracked bills impacting the right to vote and identified 142 democracy-related bills in the Arizona State Legislature—72 in the Senate and 70 in the House of Representatives.

Outreach
The ILC coordinated with its voting partners, Tribes, and counties to address issues in anticipation of the 2022 election cycle. As members of the Arizona Native Vote Coalition, the ILC worked with ITCA and All Voting is Local to host and present at monthly Native Vote Strategy Sessions. In addition to strategic planning for 2022, Dolan and Tarman-Toner regularly provided legislative analysis and updates to Tribes at the sessions.

In September 2021, Ferguson-Bohnee emceed the Secretary of State’s first-ever Tribal Nations Conference. 

On May 4, the ILC joined the “May the Vote Be With You” event organized by Angela Salazar-Willeford (MLS ’22) and hosted by her tribe Salt River-Maricopa Indian Community and ITCA.

Native Vote: Preparing for 2022

Last month, the White House issued the “Report of the Interagency Steering Group on Native American Voting Rights” after hosting a series of regional consultations with tribal leaders and members and engaging in listening sessions with organizations advocating for improved tribal voting rights. ASU Law’s Indian Legal Clinic participated in the White House consultations as part of the clinic’s Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project. The White House report explores the problems that Native American voters face and presents best practices and recommendations to mitigate and eliminate barriers that Native American voters encounter. The report featured the clinic’s polling locator tool created by Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19). 

In response to a special action petition filed in the Arizona Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of early voting in Arizona, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee and Judy Dworkin (JD ’86) represented the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA) in an amicus brief in the case. The amicus explained the history of Native American disenfranchisement in Arizona, that early voting is constitutional, that all early voting options are needed to address the unique barriers experienced by Native American voters, and that eliminating drop boxes and in-person early voting may expose Arizona to federal litigation. Native Vote Fellows Dolan and Blair Tarman-Toner (’20) assisted in drafting the brief.

The ITCA hosts monthly “Native Vote Strategy Sessions” to assist tribal governments in planning for upcoming elections. Native Vote Fellows Dolan and Tarman-Toner provided a legislative update at the “March Strategy Session.” Dolan and Tarman-Toner are continuing to track bills in the Arizona State Legislature that impact voting in tribal communities. 

We appreciate our valuable Native Vote partners and the ongoing efforts that impact our voting power.

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Blair Tarman-Toner (’21)
Native Vote Fellow, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

ILC Students at Ak-Chin Court

On March 15, Gwendolyn Bell (2L) and David Streamer (3L) appeared in court for the first time as student attorneys. Bell and Streamer represented their clients at arraignment hearings at the Ak-Chin Indian Community Court in Maricopa, Arizona. Although both students had just returned from Nebraska where they participated in the ILP traveling class, “Contemporary Issues in Tribal Economic Development,” they entered the hearings with successfully negotiated plea agreements and their clients were released later that day after the judge accepted the plea agreements. 

The Indian Legal Clinic appreciates the guidance of Chief Judge Yancy Jencsok provides to clinic students during their formative career experiences.

Meeting Estate Planning Needs

Over the past month, the Indian Legal Clinic (ILC) has continued to assist tribal members with their estate planning. On Feb. 25-26, Professor Helen Burtis (’07) and clinic students Gwendolyn Bell (2L), Ryan Maxey (2L), Lena Neuner (2L), Claire Newfeld (2L), Ravynn Nothstine (2L) and David Streamer (3L) travelled to Santa Rosa Rancheria, California to draft and execute wills for the Tachi Yokut Tribe.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to interact directly with tribal members and assist them with completing a challenging life step. This was the first Wills Clinic with the Tachi Yokut Tribe. The ILC thanks the Tachi Yokut Tribal Council, especially Councilman Bryce Baga, for organizing and sponsoring the Indian Wills Clinic. 

ILC presentation David Streamer, Gwendolyn Bell, Claire Newfeld

On March 2, Bell, Newfeld and Streamer presented live over Zoom to the Elders Council of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut. The students’ presentation included information on the importance of estate planning and how to prepare for the upcoming Wills Clinic. Members of the Elders Council were actively engaged in the presentation and prepared with many questions that students expertly fielded. 

The ILC is grateful to Chairperson Marjorie Colebut-Jackson and members of the Elders Council for joining the informational presentation and students look forward to meeting the Mashantucket Pequot elders again during the remote Indian Wills Clinic later this month.