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. 

Native Vote: Tracking bills, tracking redistricting

Last month, the Arizona Native Vote Communications Working Group made its return. Native Vote Fellow Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) attended the group’s meeting, and she will participate in the planning and organizing of election education and outreach materials to share in tribal communities as the group continues to meet regularly. 

ASU Law’s Indian Legal Clinic has continued working on the Native Vote policy project since Arizona’s legislative session began last month. Native Vote Fellows Torey Dolan (’19) and Tarman-Toner will continue tracking bills that impact voting and will inform tribes as to how particular bills impact their tribal members. So far, the Indian Legal Clinic has identified 142 democracy-related bills in the Arizona Legislature – 72 in the Senate and 70 in the House of Representatives. Additionally, the clinic has continued its work with other voting rights organizations through the Arizona Voting Rights Defense Coalition. 

The Indian Legal Clinic is preparing to present at two upcoming meetings of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona to discuss barriers to voting in Indian Country and the upcoming elections. 

Additionally, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission certified the state’s congressional and legislative maps. Tarman-Toner will continue tracking the county-level redistricting process. The county-level district lines must be finalized by July 1. 

ILC at Local Tribal Courthouse

The Indian Legal Clinic started off the semester with a visit to the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Courthouse on Jan. 21. Chief Judge Yancy Jencsok led the tour for Professor Helen Burtis (’07) and student attorneys Gwendolyn Bell (2L), Ryan Maxey (2L), Lena Neuner (2L), Claire Newfeld (2L), Ravynn Nothstine (2L), and David Streamer (3L). Clinic students will become authorized to practice law before the Ak-Chin Indian Community Court and represent defendants.

“I have never been to a tribal courthouse, so it was an awesome experience to see and tour the courthouse with Chief Judge Jencsok,” said Streamer. “It was refreshing and inspiring to hear about Chief Judge Jencsok’s work and positive experiences with tribal courts, but more importantly it was nice to see that tribal courts like Ak-Chin Indian Community are operating, growing and have knowledgeable staff and judges like Chief Judge Jencsok.”

“It’s an empowering feeling to see a tribe exercise their sovereignty and jurisdiction,” said Nothstine. 

“Tribal courts are a literal concrete expression of a tribe’s sovereignty and it was an honor to have this opportunity to speak to Judge Jencsok about the role of the court in the community while familiarizing myself with a court I’d be practicing in with the clinic,” said Maxey.

We appreciate the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Courthouse and Chief Judge Jencsok for the continued support.

Success at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the Indian Legal Clinic

The Indian Legal Clinic represented the appellants in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Case no. 21-35230, Newtok Village v. Andy Patrick) in an appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska that involved defending tribal sovereignty from unlawful intrusion by federal courts.

On behalf of their clients, the clinic appealed an adverse permanent injunction issued by the District Court of Alaska and argued that tribal sovereignty to resolve intratribal disputes prevents federal courts from intervening on such matters and that the District Court of Alaska lacked jurisdiction. On December 22, 2021, the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed with the appellants’ arguments and vacated the district court’s orders. Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote the opinion, concluding, “Continuing to enforce the permanent injunction here risks the federal court’s impermissible involvement in interpreting the Tribe’s constitution and laws.” 

Indian Legal Clinic Director Patty Ferguson-Bohnee argued the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 9, 2021. Watch the recording of the oral argument. Vinnie Amato (3L) assisted with research, and Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) and Jens Camp (’21) assisted in drafting the briefs before the Ninth Circuit. Jacob Broussard (3L) provided notes for the oral argument prep, and Native Vote Fellow Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) and Dolan assisted in preparing and refining Ferguson-Bohnee’s oral argument. The clinic collaborated with co-counsel James J. Davis, Jr. of the Northern Justice Project LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.

Native Vote

Mapping the next election

Redistricting

The State is wrapping up its redistricting efforts, and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will finalize the legislative and congressional maps early next week. Native Vote Fellow Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) tracked the Commission’s deliberations over the course of its 14 decision-making meetings, as well as tracked  the public comments made at 32 public hearings. Tarman-Toner also regularly presented to tribes on the redistricting process, assisted tribes in drafting public comments, and submitted oral and written comment regarding the importance of complying with the Voting Rights Act and maintaining a strong Native American majority-minority district.  

2022 Legislative Session

The Indian Legal Clinic has kicked off its Native Vote policy project with the start of the legislative session this week. The project will focus on tracking bills that impact voting and keeping tribes informed and involved regarding how those bills will impact their tribal members. The clinic will also work with other voting rights organizations through the Arizona Voting Rights Defense Coalition. Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) serves on the Coalition’s Coordinating Committee that manages the broader Coalition. 

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

ILP Family legacy

Native American Heritage Month

ASU's Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) president and 2L Ashleigh Fixico (Muscogee Creek Nation) rocking her mocs

As a team representing 10 tribes at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the Indian Legal Program aims to educate and celebrate on the ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odham. The program was established 33 years ago by the efforts of two ASU Law students – Gloria Kindig (’89) and LynDee Wells (’89). Over the years, we have excelled and built on that vision and created the Indian Legal Clinic, the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project, the Indian Wills Clinic, the Pathway to Law Initiative, the Rosette LLP American Indian Economic Development Program, and the Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs.

  • Kate Rosier (Comanche), ILP Executive Director and Assistant Dean of Institutional Progress
  • Patty Ferguson-Bohnee (Pointe-au-Chien), ILP Faculty Director and Indian Legal Clinic Director
  • Professor Robert Miller (Eastern Shawnee), Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar and Director of the Rosette LLP American Indian Economic Development Program
  • Professor Stacy Leeds (Cherokee), Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership
  • Professor Trevor Reed (Hopi), Associate Professor of Law
  • Professor Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes (’94) (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Professor of Practice and Director of the Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance Programs
  • Professor Derrick Beetso (’10) (Navajo), Director of the Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance Programs
  • Professor Helen Burtis (’07), Faculty Associate
  • Professor Lance Morgan (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Faculty Associate
  • Professor Pilar Thomas (Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona), Faculty Associate
  • Danielle Williams (Navajo), Program Coordinator Sr
  • Theresa Beaulieu (Stockbridge-Munsee), Program Coordinator
  • Honore Callingham (’18), Senior Specialist, Indian Legal Clinic
  • Torey Dolan (’19) (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Native Vote Policy Fellow, Indian Legal Clinic
  • Blair Tarman (’21) (Chickasaw), Native Vote Policy Fellow, Indian Legal Clinic

In addition to the JD program, we also offer a Master of Laws (LLM) program and Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. 

We’ve expanded our presence in Nebraska, California and Washington, D.C. We are a growing network because law is a growing field. Over 375 ILP students have graduated from ASU Law and over 150 received a certificate in Indian Law. 

Today, we are proud to have 72 students representing 36 tribes: 44 JD, 1 LLM and 27 MLS. 

To our entire ILP family: Happy Native American Heritage Month!

Performing Estate Planning in Indian Country

The Indian Legal Clinic successfully and safely completed two in-person Indian Wills Clinics with Quechan Indian Tribe and Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. Under the direction of Professor Helen Burtis (’07), 3L student attorneys Jacob Broussard, Liliana Elliot, Lindsay Ficklin, Zaine Ristau and Dwight Witherspoon drafted estate planning documents that are designed to provide allotment owners with wills that conform to the provisions of American Indian Probate Reform Act. The past few years have highlighted the need for elders especially to execute Indian wills.

In September, the clinic executed 14 wills for members of the Quechan Indian Tribe near Yuma, Arizona. In October, the clinic executed 16 wills for members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Temecula, California. 

Students appreciated the hands-on experience with Native American clients, especially being able to interact with clients in person again, albeit with safety precautions. “I find doing the Wills Clinic really rewarding,” said Elliott. “I learned a lot that I think will be helpful as a future Indian Law attorney.” 

Witherspoon added, “I appreciate working with Native American clients and assisting them with their allotments that pertain specifically to Native American clients in addressing their estate planning needs.” 

We appreciate the tribes for their generous hospitality and hosting the Indian Wills Clinic at their facilities. The clinic is planning additional Indian Wills Clinics for next semester. 

Native Vote Restoration

Big win for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Campaign Legal Center, Osborn Maledon and the Indian Legal Clinic represented the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in a lawsuit to restore the early voting location before the 2020 election. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe recently reached a settlement with Pima County to restore an in-person early voting location on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation. 

The right to vote for Native Americans in Arizona was only secured in 1948, and despite this right on paper, barriers to voting continue to persist and prevent Native American communities from fully participating. One such barrier was the closing of the early voting location on the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s reservation in 2018 by then Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has been fighting to restore the site since it was originally closed in 2018 and have used every available tool to have the site restored. 

Now, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s efforts are finally coming to fruition with this settlement agreement, which will restore the in-person early voting location on the reservation and provide 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 Aspen Miller (’21), Jens Camp (’21) worked with Professor Ferguson-Bohnee and Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) prepare for the preliminary injunction hearing last fall. We have been proud to stand alongside the Campaign Legal Center and Osborn Maledon in representing the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in their fight to protect their right to vote and are glad that the current Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly recognizes the importance of this site and has worked with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to reach this agreement.