Empowering democracy

Navajo Nation Presidential Debate led by Navajo students at ASU Law

On Oct. 22, the W. P. Carey Armstrong Great Hall was filled with tribal citizens eager to hear from the two final candidates running for President of the Navajo Nation: current President Jonathan Nez and Dr. Buu Nygren. Director Derrick Beetso (’10) moderated the proceedings while Navajo students and staff announced the questions submitted by the public. 

Outstanding work by our ILP students and staff: Program Coordinator Theresa Beaulieu, Beetso, Shandiin Herrera (1L), ILC Law Fellow Cierra Moore (’22), Natalia Sells (2L), Autumn Shone (3L), Chelsi Tsosie (1L) and Senior Program Coordinator Danielle Williams.

We understand the importance of tribal elections and hosting this event gave Arizona’s urban Navajo voters an opportunity to learn about the candidates and their platforms. The ILP has a special scholarship agreement with the Navajo Nation, which offers full tuition scholarship to Navajo students. Currently we have six Navajo students enrolled at ASU Law. If you know of any prospective Navajo student interested in this awesome scholarship opportunity, reach out to us at ilp@asu.edu.

Federal Advocacy Class in DC

Last week, 17 students – 15 JD, 1 LLM and 1 MLS – in the Indian Legal Program (ILP) spent their fall break in Washington, D.C. for the “Federal Advocacy for the Tribal Client” traveling class. The students attended the week-long class taught by the ILP’s Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance Director Derrick Beetso (’10) at the O’Connor Center. ILP hosted private practice attorneys: Brian Gunn of Powers Law, and Sam Hirsch, Leonard Powell, and Krystalyn Kinsel (’15) of Jenner & Block. Each attorney shared about their work on behalf of tribal clients and offered sage advice to the students. Thank you, Brian, Sam, Leonard, and Krystalyn! Thank you, D.C. ASU Law team – your hospitality and service is appreciated!

The week also included a visit to the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, where students received encouragement and reaffirmance of their respective academic endeavors from Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland. They also exchanged questions and comments with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Energy and Economic Development, Kathryn Isom-Clause; Senior Counselor Stephanie Sfiridis (’16), Senior Advisor Tracy Canard Goodluck and Deputy Solicitor Joel Williams; and Special Assistant Joaquin Gallegos and connected virtually with Rose Petoskey, Senior Counselor. Thank you, AS-IA leadership team!

ILP students then visited the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Committee staff were extremely gracious with their time and their space as a group of bipartisan staffers, including Senior Counsel Breann Nu’uhiwa (LLM ’09), Deputy Staff Director Amber Ebarb, Counsel Connie Tsosie de Haro, Policy Advisors John Simermeyer and Jacqueline Bisillie (MLS ’14), and Staff Assistant Denae Benson, met with students and explained the Committee’s history, the work they do, and their perspectives on what it means to draft and pass laws that further tribal self-governance. The students also learned a lot about the important education the Committee provides across party lines and numerous issue areas through the work they do. Thank you, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs!

The students also enjoyed lunch with Samantha Kelty, Managing Staff Attorney, Morgan Saunders, Staff Attorney, and Denver Jacket, Paralegal, of the Native American Rights Fund’s (NARF) Washington, D.C. office. They learned about the important voting rights litigation, cultural protection, and appellate and Supreme Court briefing work they do. They also learned about the history of the oldest and largest national law firm dedicated to protecting Native rights. Thank you, NARF!  

Finally, the students concluded their week with a terrific panel made up of Sun Devil ILP alums Rebecca Ross (’10), Senior Attorney, Indian Resources Section, Department of Justice; Rani Williams (‘18), Legislative Assistant, Congressmember Sharice Davids; and Jens Camp (’21), Associate, Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker, and ILP Advisory Council Member Larry Roberts, General Counsel, Mohegan Tribe. The panel shared career tips, discussed their legal work experience in Washington, D.C., and responded to questions with invaluable advice. Thank you, Larry, Rebecca, Rani, and Jens!

ILC’s 10th successful Indian Wills Clinic

In late September and early October, Professor Helen Burtis (’07), Samir Grover (2L), Erin Jenkins (2L), Courtney Kamauoha (3L), Molly Lathrop (3L), Julia Weiss (2L) and Joseph Wilwerding (2L) traveled to the Temecula Valley, California and met with 16 clients to prepare wills and health care powers of attorney for members of the Pechanga Band of Indians. Altogether, 28 estate planning documents were prepared. At the end of the two-day event, 14 members left with estate documents valid under Pechanga Band, federal, and California law. 

“The wills clinic was such a great way to take our classroom knowledge and translate it into real world experience,” Jenkins said. “I felt like I was really making a difference in the lives of the wills clinic participants.”

Prior to the wills clinic proceedings, Pechanga Band administrators provided a seminar for tribal members about financial planning in general. One of the seminar topics included the importance of having an estate plan.  

After the financial planning seminar, Pechanga Band administrators publicized the wills clinic and signed up members who were interested. The administrators also obtained the necessary Bureau of Indian Affairs paperwork for the client and arranged the logistics for the proceedings.

Attorneys from the Escondido Office of the California Indian Legal Services also assisted by teaching the estate planning section of the Pechanga Band’s financial planning seminar, by reviewing the legal documents for conformance to California law ahead of the clinic, and by assisting with the supervision of the students on site during the clinic. 

The ILC is very grateful for the support and assistance from everyone involved to ensure its success. Finally, many thanks to the notaries and witnesses who made the signing ceremonies for each of the clients possible. This year, we were honored to have Pechanga Band Rangers and Safety Officers among our witnesses! 

Indian Rights Summer Fellowship recipients

The Indian Legal Program has been partnering with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) and receives grant funding to offer Indian Rights Summer Fellowship, which allows students to design their summer job. The purpose of the Indian Rights Summer Fellowship is to promote public service in Indian country by providing funding to students who are working on legal issues affecting individual Indians or Indian Nations. The Fellowship provide students with an opportunity to undertake practical experiences with tribes, tribal/indigenous organizations, educational programs and/or nonprofits. This year, five students received the Indian Rights Summer Fellowship and share their summer job experiences.

Over the summer, Gwendolyn Bell (3L) worked with the Portland Area Indian Health Board on health policy projects and research. One of the projects she worked on was a Long-Term Care resource for Washington state, which provides detailed information on long-term health care services including information on staffing, building, care, and other requirements. It also includes sources for funding and other resources, and links to the Washington Administrative Code and Revised Code pertaining to that service. Bell also worked in making a resource for internal use of federal legislation and policy about Indian health. Finally, she assisted in preparing a bi-weekly legislation and policy update for member Tribes and organizations. The newsletter update presented information on new policies and legislation in the health care and Indian health areas, as well as information on town halls, Tribal leader meetings, and opportunities to write comments on pending policy. 

“I am incredibly grateful for the funding provided to me by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, as I would have been unable to accept this incredible opportunity otherwise,” Bell said. “I greatly enjoyed my experience this summer and learned a vast amount about the field which will help me in my career.”

Ashleigh Fixico (3L) had the honor of working with ILP alum, Judge Diane Humetewa (’93) in the Arizona Federal District Court. “Having the opportunity to be in the courtroom and experience live proceedings was the highlight of my law school career, which began during the height of COVID and virtual learning,” Fixico said. She enjoyed working with another ILP alum, Alexander Mallory (’19), a law clerk to Judge Humetewa. “He always provided helpful advice and the sincerest interest in you as a person. This summer was about growing up and accepting that my career as a student is almost over. I am thankful for Judge Humetewa and her chambers for taking me in and offering me space to grow into the individual I came to law school to become.”

Ryan Maxey (3L) spent the summer working as an intern for Denise Turner-Walsh, attorney general of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians. “It was an incredible opportunity where I got to utilize my knowledge of federal Indian law in a practical setting,” Maxey said. He researched and briefed the AG and other tribal government officials on evolving areas of federal law, including environmental and labor law, as they applied to the tribe. He also worked on fee-to-trust applications and helped draft HEARTH act-compliant residential leasing regulations. “I’m incredibly grateful that my Salt River Fellowship helped make this experience possible,” Maxey said.

Photographed with Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, at a meeting of the California Fee-To-Trust Consortium
Photographed with Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, at a meeting of the California Fee-To-Trust Consortium

“I’m incredibly grateful that my Salt River Fellowship helped make this experience possible,” Maxey said.

Sophie Staires (2L) worked as a legal intern for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Prosecutor’s Office. She worked closely with the criminal team and was able to participate in a number of dependency cases as well. She hit the ground running and was tasked with reviewing new police reports and helping prosecutors with charging decisions and drafting complaints. Before long she was assisting prosecutors by writing and filing motions, compiling documents for disclosure, and negotiating plea deals with defense advocates. Staires sat in on arraignments and hearings 3-4 days a week, and eventually obtained a license to speak in court. Now she is able to assist with weekly arraignments.

“Representing the Community in court is an honor and a privilege, and not one that I take lightly,” Staires said. “It is intimidating, but the attorneys are so supportive, making it the perfect place to work on litigation skills and build confidence.”

Over the summer, she collaborated with another fellow ILP intern, Alexandra Trousdale, on a research project: how different jurisdictions handle competency determinations and civil commitment. At the end of the summer, they presented on the Supreme Court decision Oklahoma v Castro-Huerta and its implications for tribal jurisdictions before the Native American Bar Association of Arizona (NABA-AZ) board.

“I think my favorite part of the summer was working with defense counsel to put together a plea deal,” she said. “It is an honor to have the trust of the prosecutors, and a relationship of mutual respect with the defense attorneys. My time at Salt River has shown me that it is possible to create a criminal justice system that is supportive, rehabilitative, and community oriented. It has been an incredible experience and has fueled my passion for serving tribal communities.”

Alexandra Trousdale (1L) worked for the Tribal Prosecutors Office at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community over the past summer. She had the opportunity to get a diverse taste of legal practice in both civil and criminal prosecution. Trousdale observed several court proceedings and provided insight in various cases, including criminal prosecution, mental health evaluation, and child dependency. She also drafted disclosure statements, deferred prosecution agreements and plea agreements and took lead in plea negotiations with defense attorneys. At end of the summer, she led a presentation with a fellow ILP intern, Sophie Staires, on the Castro-Huerta decision before the NABA-AZ board.

Associate Job Announcement

The Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tempe, Arizona offices of Rothstein Donatelli, LLP are each seeking an associate for their Indian law practice. Rothstein Donatelli has offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tempe, Arizona. The Indian law practice in Santa Fe specializes in federal Indian law, including gaming, economic development, water rights, land rights, civillitigation, and transactional matters. Tempe specializes in federal Indian law, including gaming, economic development, Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian health law, labor and employment law, and transactional matters. Rothstein Donatelli is committed to advancing the sovereign rights of Native American tribes. More information about the firm is available at www.rothsteinlaw.com.
The ideal candidate will have three or more years of experience with a demonstrated commitment to the highest quality of legal practice, excellent research and writing skills, and an interest in representing tribal Nations. Experience in Indian law is not required. Interested candidates should send a cover letter, resume, references, and writing sample to Manya Snyder at info@rothsteinlaw.com. The positions will remain open until filled. Salary competitive in the Santa Fe and Tempe markets and depending on experience.
Rothstein Donatelli LLP provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, disability, sex or gender identity, results of genetic testing, or service in the military. Equal employment opportunity applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leave of absence,compensation, and training. The Firm expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment or discrimination based on any of the characteristics mentioned above. Improperinterference with the ability of other employees to perform their expected job duties is absolutely not tolerated. The Firm is committed to achieving a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment.

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