ILC Reflections: Hearty Experiences

Student attorneys are instrumental in the progress and movement of the Indian Legal Clinic. While they work with real clients and real issues, they gain invaluable experience for their law career. 

This has been an interesting year for everyone. In their third and last year in law school, it looks very different from their first year at ASU Law. Dustin Rector (3L) and Blair Tarman (3L) open up about their time in the Indian Legal Clinic and shed light on how this experience has better prepared them.

In his words, Dustin Rector writes:

This year, Native Vote faced a unique challenge through the COVID-19 pandemic. I helped Native Vote navigate the difficulties the pandemic created for our volunteers and helped ensure that the virus remains contained during Election Day activities. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, a consistent issue I addressed on Election Day were voter registration and provisional ballot issues. Despite these challenges, the moment that stands out to me was having the chance to return to my community in the Fort Apache Reservation and serve other tribal members. 

The reason I chose to participate in the Indian Legal Clinic was because I wanted to apply the things I have been learning in my other classes. Before entering the Indian Legal Clinic, I had a loose understanding of what trial work looked like and I did not know how to use the things I learned in my classes in the real world. The Indian Legal Clinic has helped me learn about trial skills and has helped me become more confident and comfortable in using those skills.

If you want to understand what working in a law firm looks and feels like or if you want to work in a law firm that prioritizes Native issues, then I highly recommend enrolling in the Indian Legal Clinic. I also recommend prioritizing your time and being open to new learning experiences, no matter how challenging it is. Lastly, I would like to remind interested students that it is ok to make mistakes because the Clinic Director is there to guide you at all times. 

In her words, Blair Tarman writes:

This year, I participated as an Election Protection volunteer answering phone calls for the Native Vote Hotline. It is important to protect Native voting rights because the right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed to every American, and the First People should not be denied their right to make their voices heard. 

I came across several inquiries regarding whether or not there were any transportation services being offered to and from the polls. This goes to show how difficult it can be for voters in tribal communities to travel to their designated polling locations due to lack of personal or public transportation options. Additionally, several callers wanted to know whether it was possible for them to vote online. 

I chose to participate in the Indian Legal Clinic because I wanted to gain practical experience working with real clients. This experience has taught me so much about working with tribal clients and serving tribal communities. I cannot overstate how much I have learned from participating in the Indian Legal Clinic. 

If I could offer any advice to someone considering enrolling in the ILC, it would be this: Do it. The ILC offers a unique opportunity for students to learn by doing. Being personally responsible for  cases and knowing that clients are depending upon you will only render you more motivated to give your best effort. 

Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Arizona Native Vote Changemakers

The Indian Legal Clinic student attorneys, ILP affiliates and volunteers worked on the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project (AZNVEP) for months to prepare for the general election on Nov. 3. The number of this year’s Election Protection volunteers made for a great success despite the circumstances! We had 100 volunteers, which is more than in past years, who assisted Native voters at over 60 polling locations in Arizona on Election Day through the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project. The ILC team included Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) as lead, Brendan Clark (3L), Aspen Miller (3L), Dustin Rector (3L), MacArthur Stant (3L),and Blair Tarman (3L) under the supervision of Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee. Student attorneys provided virtual training sessions for volunteers, ran the hotline and interacted with voters on-site.

Through partnerships with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), the Native American Bar Association of Arizona (NABA-AZ), the Arizona Election Protection Coalition and volunteers, Native Vote served as an important resource for hundreds of Native voters during the 2020 election. Over 250 Native American voters called the Native Vote Election Protection hotline for assistance on Election Day, and many voters called prior to the election to check voter registration and polling locations, and answered questions regarding general election information.  

With the extraordinary commitment from volunteers—ILP students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends—an Election Protection volunteer was on-site and available at the following locations: Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation, White Mountain Apache, San Carlos Apache, Pascua Yaqui, Yavapai Apache, Yavapai Prescott, Quechan, Cocopah Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, and the Ak-Chin Indian Community. 

We thank our ASU community for the support, which released the ASU Now article on election day that highlighted the greater work of Native Vote as well as the innovative Polling Locator Tool created just this year with US Digital Response. Watch the video  to see how this tool was used by Native voters.

Two of our ILC students Miller and Stant who traveled to Hopi and Navajo Nation were highlighted in an Arizona Republic article

Ferguson-Bohnee was quoted in the Center for Public Integrity article and Arizona Republic articles here and here

On Nov. 11, Dolan was interviewed by Native America Calling to give a recap about Native Vote. She was also quoted in The State Press articles here and here

Find more coverage from Ferguson-Bohnee, Dolan and Brian Garcia (’20) in this VICE article, which included Arizona Native Vote assisting with extension hours to a polling site. 

We appreciate our partners and all who volunteered across Indian Country to ensure Arizona’s tribal communities and tribal members had access to the polls!

Pechanga Wills Clinic

Student Attorneys Serving Tribes

Jens Camp (3L) remotely counsels an estate planning client via Zoom during the October Indian Wills Clinic with the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

As part of broader efforts to help tribal communities address COVID-19 implications, Indian Legal Clinic students increased estate planning assistance in Indian Country. Students met  remotely with 14 members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians on drafting estate planning documents in October.

Nineteen wills, financial powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney were executed during the project. The clients were grateful for the students’ “hard work, attention to detail, and graciousness,” said Robyn Delfino, Tribal Treasurer of the Pechanga Band, who managed administration of the program.

“We are thankful our students have the opportunity to bring this important service to the citizenry of the Pechanga Band,” said Professor Helen Burtis (’07). “These estate planning clinics give students unparalleled opportunities to counsel clients and learn the intricacies of drafting wills that conform with the American Indian Probate Reform Act.”

Students who participated are Mariah Black Bird (3L), Jens Camp (3L), Brendon Clark (3L), Aspen Miller (3L), Dustin Rector (3L) and MacArthur Stant (3L). They were supervised by Michele Fahley, Deputy General Counsel of the Pechanga Band, Mark Vezzola, Directing Attorney of the Escondido California Indian Legal Services, and Burtis.

Helen Burtis (’07)
Faculty Associate, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

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Quechan Wills Clinic

 Kris Beecher (3L), Blair Tarman (2L), and Irvin Williams (3L) worked with ILP alumni to present the Quechan Wills Clinic on Feb. 28 and 29. The Wills Clinic, led by Faculty Associate Helen Burtis (’08), was part of this semester’s Indian Legal Clinic’s course. The student attorneys met with Quechan Indian Tribe members individually to discuss the member’s estate planning needs. Each student attorney then drafted a member’s will, which was executed the next day. Jim Palmer, Jr. (’04), Simon Gertler (’18) and Margaret Hirchak  (’12), all ILP alumni and attorneys at Rosette, LLP, provided supervision and mentorship to the students and also provided estate planning services to Tribal members. 

Thanks to the Wills Clinic at ASU Law’s Indian Legal Clinic, 14 members received wills that covered their allotments, trust personalty and other non-trust property. 

ASU Indian Legal Clinic in D.C.

On Feb. 11, Kris Beecher (3L), Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren (3L) and Blair Tarman (2L) accompanied Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee to the House Subcommittee on Elections Hearing on Native American Voting Rights: Exploring Barriers and Solutions

ILC students and Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) helped to prepare the testimony that was delivered to the Subcommittee. Additionally, Navajo Nation Attorney General and ILP graduate Doreen McPaul (’01) testified on behalf of Navajo Nation. Congratulations to all involved!

You can view the testimony, which was recorded live in Washington, D.C., here.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez gave a hearty acknowledgement to the ILC. Read the post here.

Ferguson-Bohnee and McPaul were also quoted in a Cronkite News article about the Native Vote hearing on Feb. 11. Read the article here

Ferguson-Bohnee and McPaul were also quoted in a Cronkite News article about the Native Vote hearing on Feb. 11. Read the article here

Pechanga Wills Clinic

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Indian Legal Clinic partnered with the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Leadership and the California Indian Legal Services on Sept. 23 and 24 in an extremely successful Indian Wills Clinic for the members of the Pechanga Band. At the event, free legal services were offered to members of the Band who wished to create wills for bequeathing their allotments. The Pechanga Indian Reservation includes a mix of trust lands, fee lands and lands owned by the Band, individual Indians and non-Indians.

Eleven members of the Band met with three Indian Legal Clinic students on the first day of the Clinic to discuss their estate planning needs. The students then drafted an Indian will that was ready for execution on the following day for each of the individuals. Jennifer Parisien, Tribal Treasurer Department Financial Analyst, coordinated the event while Michele Fahley, Deputy General Counsel for the Band, and Mica Llerandi, staff attorney with California Indian Legal Services, supervised the student attorneys.

“Ensuring tribal members have access to legal services in preparing Indian wills has been a long-term priority for my office,” said Steve Bodmer, JD ’06, the Band’s General Counsel. “When our Tribal Secretary and Tribal Treasurer reached out to me regarding adding wills to the Pechanga financial education series, my thoughts turned immediately to the Indian Legal Program as a possible resource to make this project a success.”

Robyn Delfino, Pechanga Band Tribal Treasurer, explained that the Wills Clinic was part of a larger initiative sponsored by the Tribal Treasury Department and Tribal Leadership with an aim of assisting members by providing education about financial management and legal tools for planning for the future.

“The amazing work that was performed in the Wills Clinic is evidenced in the reaction of the Band’s membership,” said Bodmer.

“The feedback from members was extremely positive,” added Delfino, “which resulted in multiple tribal members contacting us to ask when the next clinic would be held. The partnership between the Tribal Leadership, California Indian Legal Services, and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Indian Legal Clinic was a win-win situation where tribal members gained very valuable services while students gained very valuable educational experiences.”

The students involved in the Wills Clinic were universal in their appreciation for the learning opportunities the program provided.

“I am thankful for the rewarding and humbling experience of working with clients to prepare their wills from start to finish,” shared Cynthia Freeman, JD candidate ’20, “I am grateful for the first-hand practical experience, which
is a great contribution to my overall legal education.”

Cora Tso, JD candidate ’20, said “creating a will is a proactive step for members to take to protect their families for generations to come. It was an amazing experience to be able to help them with their endeavors.”

Shayla Bowles, JD candidate ’20, was happy for the experience in counseling clients.

“From a practical standpoint, I learned how to conduct an interview while acknowledging the very sensitive and personal nature of estate planning,” said Bowles. “Because drafting Indian wills is a specialty, I feel blessed to have this knowledge to apply in my legal future.”

“The students did a tremendous job of building the clients’ trust in the limited amount of time available to them,” said Helen Burtis, JD ’07, the faculty associate overseeing the students’ participation in the Wills Clinic. They prepared for
the Wills Clinic by learning about fractionalization of allotments and the
American Indian Probate Reform Act.

“Drafting Indian Wills is technically complex, and the students were dedicated to getting the clients’ estate planning wishes accurately incorporated into the documents,” Burtis added. “On behalf of the Indian Legal Clinic and the Indian Legal Program, I would like to thank Pechanga Tribal Leadership and staff as well as the members who agreed to work with students for letting our students take part in this valuable program.”

Happy #NationalVoterRegistrationDay!

Happy #NationalVoterRegistrationDay! Have you registered yet? Here’s a #throwback to when Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee and the ILC helped Agnes Laughter, a Navajo elder become a registered voter in 2008. “All of my heartache has changed as of this day,” said Laughter, who was 77 at the time. “I have an identity now. My thumbprint will stand. I feel fulfilled.” 💛 Register today to be #VoteReady