Where are they now? 7 and Counting… The Procopio Native American Internship Alumni.

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

As we begin our journey looking for talent for our 2015 Procopio Native American Internship program throughout Indian Country, I think it is important to pause and reflect on the alumni that have made this program what it is today. We have reconnected with each of our alumni and want to share with you what they are doing and where they are doing it from – it is a diverse group of sovereigns and regions represented by Procopio’s talented alumni.

Eric Abeita, from Isleta Pueblo, is the Managing Editor for the Tribal Law Journal at the University of New Mexico College of Law. He is also representing Native clients in state, federal, and tribal courts and in governments agency hearings at through his legal clinic experience with the Southwest Indian Law Clinic. He has worked in various sales and marketing positions within Indian Country. He previously interned with Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Mielke & Brownell LLP where he gained experience in Native American law.

Fernando Anzaldua is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Fernando is a federal attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. He is a 2013 gradate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he also earned an Indian Legal Certificate. During his law school career he was a student attorney for the Indian Legal Clinic and was involved in the Native American Law Student Association and the Law Journal for Social Justice. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and political science in addition to obtaining his ethics degree from ASU.

Stephanie Conduff is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is an associate in our Procopio office in Oklahoma whose practice emphasizes working with tribal governments, individual Native people and companies doing business in Indian Country. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Stephanie served as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Barbara Smith of the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court. Stephanie is certified to assist tribal courts as a Peacemaker. She has worked for her tribal government in Washington D.C. managing legislative affairs and $350 million worth of appropriation requests. Stephanie also worked for Cherokee Nation Businesses, with $715 million in annual revenue, to diversify their industries and create jobs for tribal citizens throughout Indian Country. Bringing an international indigenous perspective, she has contributed to United Nations reports on human rights from Bogota, Colombia, and also studied Indigenous Peoples Law in Geneva, Switzerland. She has a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota where she was a MacArthur Fellow. Stephanie earned her undergraduate degrees from the University of Oklahoma in political science and journalism. She worked for the U.S. Department of State at U.S. Embassy – Pretoria, South Africa, and was a reporter for Boston Globe. Oklahoma Magazine recognized her as a “40 Under 40.”

Trinidad Contreras is a citizen of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and is a descendant of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. He is currently a judicial clerk for the Superior Court in Fairbanks, Alaska. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona, College of Law and his LL.M. from the U.C. Los Angeles. Trinidad received his undergraduate degrees from U.C. Berkeley in Native American Studies and molecular and cellular biology and a masters degree at the University of Arizona in Federal Indian Law and Policy. He previously completed legal externships with the Pascua Yaqui National Public Defender’s Office in Tucson, Arizona, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Tribal Justice, Washington, DC, the U.S. Federal District Court, District of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, DC.

Kelsey Leonard is a citizen of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and entering her final year of law school at Dusquene University Law School. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where she served within various Native undergraduate organizations, including the Ivy Native Council and the Harvard University Native American Program. She then attended the University of Oxford, England, where she was the first Native American woman to receive a degree from Oxford, receiving her masters in Water Science, Policy and Management. Kelsey has previously worked for the National Congress of American Indians and as an environmental consultant on water resource management projects prior to her current pursuit of a law degree. During her years at Duquesne University School of Law she has served as President of the Indigenous Law Society and as an associate editor on the Duquesne Energy and Environmental Law Journal. Kelsey is currently the Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body for the National Ocean Council charged with guiding the protection, maintenance, and restoration of America’s oceans and coasts.

Christopher Scott is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and entering his final year of law school at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He is the Note and Comment Editor for the American Indian Law Review. Christopher is also involved in the Native American Law Students Association. He served as a legal intern at the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and was a Legal Assistant at the Wall Law Office.

Jaclyn Simi is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. She graduated with honors from Notre Dame de Namur University and received her law degree from California Western Law School, where she was president of the Native American Law Students Association. Jaclyn received the Distinguished Advocate award recipient for her National Moot Court Negotiation Team and was nominated as one of The Daily Transcript’s Best Young Attorneys (2013). She is active in the Native American Lawyers Association of San Diego County, the Lawyers Club of San Diego and the American Indian Chamber of Commerce.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

The IGRA as Protector: DOJ Weighs in on Duluth-Fond du Lac Casino Dispute

By: Tyler Fish | Guest Contributor
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The U.S. Department of Justice this week submitted a cross-motion for summary judgment in City of Duluth v. National Indian Gaming Commission (D.C.). The case concerns attempts by the City of Duluth to maintain influence over economic development efforts by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in downtown Duluth, MN. The DOJ’s cross-motion affirms NIGC’s regulatory authority and promotes one of Congress’ original intentions in passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act: to protect tribal gaming interests from outside influence.

Disputes regarding the Fond-du-Luth Casino facility have been ongoing since a 1986 agreement between the band and the city was found to violate IGRA in 1993. The NIGC then issued a violation notice of IGRA’s tribal “sole proprietary interest” requirements, which ensure that revenues from gaming enterprises are used to promote the general welfare and economic development of the tribe and not a third-party interests. Pursuant to NIGC’s violation notice, the band and the city amended the agreement in 1994. However, in 2011, the NIGC reviewed the 1994 amendments and again found IGRA violations from the city’s potential for undue influence over the band’s gaming operations.

In the present case, the City of Duluth has challenged NIGC’s authority to review agreements that impact gaming operations and economic development ventures in Indian Country. The DOJ’s cross-motion rightfully supports NIGC’s oversight authority to limit influence over the band’s sovereign gaming rights. In a related case, the city has brought suit directly against Fond du Lac claiming that the band’s right to enter land into trust was contractually subverted to the city’s interests in the 1986 and 1994 amended agreements. Should an agreement between a city and an Indian tribe relieve the NIGC of its oversight authority under IGRA? Can a city possess “sole discretion to disapprove” tribal trust land acquisitions? Congress created the IGRA to regulate gaming in Indian Country, but also, to protect tribal rights to generate gaming revenue free from adverse, third-party influence.





Tyler Fish is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and has devoted his personal and professional ambitions to public service and protection of the sovereign rights of Native people and tribal governments. Before attending law school, Tyler served his tribal nation as a legislative officer and government representative in Washington, D.C. Tyler followed the footsteps of his grandfather by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. During six years of service, and a tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tyler concurrently earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with minors in International Studies and Political Science. Tyler is a Gates Millennial Scholar and an alumnus of the Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship program.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

Equal Footing: ABA Recognizes Members of Tribal Courts as Bar Members

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The American Bar Association (ABA) has long recognized the important role of human rights relating to Native American people and their way of life (see ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS AND JURISDICTION ON TRIBAL LANDS, an article originally published in Human Rights Magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association Section of Individual Right and Responsibilities). Ironically, with an eye toward the needs of tribal communities, the ABA has not previously recognized the legal professionals who create the Native American bar as part of the ABA. This has left an entire type of sovereigns without the ability to join the ABA. Now that has changed.

The previous ABA membership policy allowed for anyone who was licensed in a state, federal or territorial jurisdiction (like Guam or Puerto Rico) could join the ABA as a full member. But that policy did not extend to those who are licensed through a tribal court of a federally recognized tribal government. This left a class of legal professionals who were denied full membership opportunities because they practiced solely in a tribal court.

This week, thanks to Sponsors Danny Van Horn and Mary Smith, the ABA opened full membership opportunities to tribal court practitioners. The ABA adopted an ABA Constitutional change so that they now recognize members of tribal bar associations as full members of the ABA – at long last putting tribal court bar membership on equal footing with the bars of states and territories of the United States.

  • Rule 3.1 Members. Any person of good moral character in good standing at the bar of a state, territory, possession, or tribal court of any federally recognized tribe of the United States is eligible to be a member of the Association in accordance with the Bylaws.

We applaud the ABA for taking this inclusive measure in affirming the critical role tribal court practitioners have in ensuring justice throughout the United States in the more than 565 federally recognized tribal governments.



Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

A Story of San Diego That Needs to Be Told More Often

By: Christopher R. Scott | Intern
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

As I speak with strangers, acquaintances, and new friends I have met during my time in San Diego, I am repeatedly met by blank stares when I mention I am involved in the field of Native American Law. Of course it’s a niche practice, and I would expect nothing less from citizens of a state in which the Native population is relatively small. But consider these facts about San Diego: it sits in a state with a larger American Indian population than any other; over 100 federally recognized Tribes call the state home; and, even more significantly, there are more reservations in San Diego County than any other county in the United States.

With that in mind, it was so very refreshing to see the San Diego Symphony’s production of “Your Song, Your Story” at the Marina Park on July 16th. As a multicultural, multimedia celebration of the various musical traditions present in San Diego, it was simultaneously succinct and wide-reaching—not any easy task to pull off with such a diverse population as that of the city. But the most successful aspect of the show was its full embrace of the often awkward attempt at over-inclusiveness from which many events like this suffer. It managed to strike just the right note, so to speak, throughout the program with song, dance, and storytelling, and the location by the marina couldn’t have been more idyllic.

Importantly, keeping in mind the aforementioned facts about the city’s Native population, the Kumeyaay Bird Singers were featured at the top of the program. They lead the symphony in a spirited opening number as a narration of, ironically, San Diego’s colonial history played over the loudspeakers. As far as juxtapositions go, there couldn’t have been a more rewarding one than that. I felt like a real San Diegan for that single hour. And so I would like to give many thanks to the San Diego Symphony and sponsors of the event for helping combat the ignorance about the city’s cultural history that is still prevalent. After all, the more we discover about the people around us, the more we may understand about ourselves.

Christopher is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is entering his third year at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

New Source for Digitized Indigenous Laws – Library of Congress Native American Law Clearinghouse Now Available.

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

Sometimes it is difficult for Tribal Governments to get a start on developing Tribal Codes, or ordinances or resolutions to serve a new program. The Library of Congress has created an online resource that should help with your efforts. The Indigenous Law Portal brings together a collection of tribal websites, Indigenous programs, tribal codes (including full land use ordinances), tribal zoning maps, Constitutions, and other original source information. This is largely hard to find materials in one place online – and at no cost to the user. This is an incredible resource for Indian Country and those of us who work in Native law and policy to be able to find materials that are often difficult to locate.

Site navigation at the Indigenous Law Portal can occur alphabetically, state-by-state, regionally or even nationally. The site does not cover all of your needs, and will hopefully be developed further in the future; however, it is an immediately useful resource for many of our clients. Take some time to browse it a bit.

Review the Library of Congress portal here: Indigenous Law Portal.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

Showing the Way: Tribal and State Court Systems Unite to Ensure Best Practices and Solid Relationships

By: Eric Abeita | Intern
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

Judicial interface between Tribal Court systems and other courts can be a challenge; however, there are ways to smooth the relationship and learn from one another.  In 2006, the New Mexico Supreme Court recognized the Tribal-State Judicial Consortium as one of its advisory committees.  The Consortium previously existed for many years, and was founded to strengthen the relationships between State and Tribal Courts; however it was underutilized.  Not so any longer.  Currently seven Tribal judges and seven State judges, along with several alternates, serve on the committee.  They deal with complex jurisdictional issues between the two court systems and promote general goodwill and rapport between the judges.

The Consortium has worked to develop a judicial bench card and best practices in regard to the Indian Child and Welfare Act (ICWA).  It has also worked to implement Full Faith and Credit between the court systems, and has courageously tackled the barriers of State Court recognition of Tribal Court orders.  The Consortium continues to have great success in addressing jurisdictional and sovereignty issues between State and Tribal Courts.  This has required both work and perseverance. For many years, State Court judges were uneasy with recognizing Tribal Courts as their peers, and to this day there is still uneasiness with some State judges.  However, with dedication and hard work the Consortium has greatly increased cooperation and communication between the Court systems and has helped to establish New Mexico Tribal Courts as Full Faith and Credit Courts in the state.

Several other law students and I began learning about the important work the Consortium was doing when we started attending their quarterly meetings in 2013.  We began attending the meetings as we all served as editors on the Tribal Law Journal at the University of New Mexico School of Law.  Part of our responsibility at the Journal is to annually update the Tribal Court Handbook, which is a catalog of contact information, court rules, and court members of the various Tribal Courts in New Mexico.  We thought by attending the Consortium meetings we could get direct contact with Tribal Judges which would aid in updating the Handbook.  We were welcomed warmly and invited to attend further general and committee meetings of the group, which we most graciously did.  We are now working with the Consortium to develop a Tribal Law Journal liaison.   This law student will be responsible for attending Consortium meetings and reporting back to the Journal.  It is these types of relationships that the Consortium is so good at fostering, and a major reason why it has been so successful.

While other types of coalitions exist throughout the country, the New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium is a model for many states to follow.  By attending the meetings, I saw first hand that the focus was not on whether the state or tribal system was “right”, but how to come to a solution was possible while showing mutual respect and a shared understanding of each other.  In many instances in American-Tribal relations, problems arise because of a lack of understanding of each other’s values, cultures and laws.  If there is a greater understanding of these backdrops from which the parties are working, the foundation is laid for these two systems to work together and respect each other’s sovereignty and jurisdictional authority.  Hopefully more states will follow the Consortium’s work and will have the same or even greater success it has had.


PROVIDE INFORMATION — Are you considering a custody case involving an Indian child?  Do orders of protection or child support orders from other jurisdictions come to your court for enforcement?  Did another area’s law enforcement officers pursue a suspect into your jurisdiction?  Issues like these – crossing jurisdictions – are the focus of the New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium.  By establishing local relationships and communications between the Courts, conflicts and cases can better be resolved.

DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS — Quarterly Consortium meetings offer briefings by subject matter experts who can address situations involving cross-jurisdictional issues, such as extradition, and provide an opportunity for discussion among Tribal and State Judges about issues and cases generally.  The Consortium also promotes relationships and communications by conducting regional training events to help the Courts learn more about the challenges they encounter and begin working together to address them.  It also provides opportunities for Tribal Judges to attend State judicial conferences.

COLLABORATE — Growing out of a subcommittee of the Court Improvement Project on child welfare several years ago, the Consortium was formally recognized by the New Mexico Supreme Court as one of its advisory committees in 2006.  Equal numbers of Tribal and State Judges represent the various Pueblos, Tribes, and levels of New Mexico Courts on the Consortium.  These fourteen members, with the assistance of three alternate members, offer a forum to help raise awareness among the Courts about jurisdictional matters.

OUTREACH — The Consortium is currently concentrating on projects involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), full faith and credit/comity, and improving outreach and communications with the Courts.  Anyone interested in Tribal/State collaboration is welcome to attend our meetings.  The Consortium has been recognized for its efforts in outreach and collaboration by the National Criminal Justice Association.

Eric Abeita is a member of the Isleta Pueblo and is entering his third year at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Eric is a recipient of the 2014 Procopio Native American Internship.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.