Where are they now? 9 and Counting…The Procopio Native American Internship Alumni

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

The annual Federal Bar Association Indian Law conference provides a convenient opportunity for past, present and future Procopio Interns to connect and strengthen their network together as they develop into the future Native American Bar. Each year Procopio hosts a reception and dinner at the Scottsdale AZ Fed Bar Meetings to help facilitate the connections and to celebrate their accomplishments.  This year’s April 6 reception was particularly special with Indian Law Section Chair Emeritus and Past FBA President Lawrence Baca joining the gathering.  Lawrence was the first American Indian lawyer hired at the United States Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honor Law Program in 1976. He was also the first American Indian attorney hired into the DOJ Civil Rights Division, and for 32 years, he dedicated his career to protecting the civil rights of American Indian People. Now retired, Lawrence remains active in encouraging the development of the future of the Native American Bar and was generous in providing his time to meet with the next generation, share a few of his many stories and his wisdom, and offering encouragement to the law students and young lawyers.

While not all of the intern alumni could make it to the Fed Bar meetings, the timing provided a convenient opportunity to obtain an update on their professional progress and direction.  We reconnected with each of Procopio’s talented and diverse alumni and want to share with you an update of their journey.

Eric Abeita (2014), from Isleta Pueblo, is a member of the New Mexico Bar and holds the position of General Counsel for the Pueblo of Pojoaque in Santa Fe New Mexico.  Eric is a 2015 graduate of University of New Mexico College of Law School, where he was the Managing Editor for the Tribal Law Journal and gathered valuable legal clinic experience with the Southwest Indian Law Clinic.

Nichole (Nikke) Alex (2015) is Diné (Navajo) Nation, and a third-year student at the University of New Mexico College of Law. Nikke is currently a judicial extern with the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court where she is assisting with developing a Juvenile Intervention Program and a Peacemaking Program to promote a non-adversarial forum for resolving disputes where Pueblo tradition and culture are utilized to promote healing. Earlier this month she was able to meet with Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor on behalf of the Tribal Court, as part of Justice Sotomayor’s outreach to learn more about the difficult issues faced by Indian Country.  During her law school career, Nikke has also investigated the linkage between mineral extraction and violence against Native women and has worked with tribes to implement safeguards to protect Native women and children.

Fernando Anzaldua (2012) is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Fernando is a federal attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, where he has experienced significant success in Federal Court, successfully first-chairing two trials for his clients. He is a 2013 graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he also earned an Indian Legal Certificate.

Stephanie Conduff (2013) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, Oklahoma, District Court of The Chickasaw Nation, The Supreme Court of Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation and Chickasaw Nation.  She lives and works in her community in Oklahoma as an attorney, business owner of Leche Lounge and training Native entrepreneurs on best practices for profitability through sustainable development. She currently works with both ONABEN and First Peoples Worldwide to empower indigenous people. Stephanie is invited to present and attend the Fifteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held in New York from May 9-20, 2016 to work on global issues facing Native People.  She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Stephanie served as a judicial clerk for the late Honorable Chief Justice Barbara Smith of the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court and is certified to assist tribal courts as a Peacemaker.  Stephanie was with Procopio for three years first as a summer intern, then as a law clerk and worked full-time for the firm as an Associate until 2016.

Trinidad Contreras (2011) is a citizen of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and is a descendant of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. He is a member of the Alaska Bar and currently assistant City Attorney for the City of Juneau.   He received his law degree from the University of Arizona, College of Law in 2010 and his LL.M.(Business Law) from UCLA Law School in 2011. Trinidad received his undergraduate degrees from U.C. Berkeley in Native American Studies and molecular and cellular biology and a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in Federal Indian Law and Policy. Since law school, Trinidad worked as Judicial Law Clerk for the Alaska State Court System, externed for the National Indian Gaming Association, and worked on corporate and environmental matters for Sealaska Corporation.

Anna Hohag (2015) is a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and born and raised in the Eastern Sierras in Bishop, CA. She is in her second year of law school at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona and recently placed fifth in the National Native American Law Association Moot Court Competition at Michigan State University. She is a Board Member on the California Indian Law Association and the 2015-2016 National Native American Law Students Association Area 1 Representative and was recently elected to the same position for 2016-2017.

Kelsey Leonard (2015) is a citizen of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and received her law degree at Dusquene University Law School. Last year she was named the prestigious Philomathia Trillium Scholar by McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), where she will be study climate change’s impact on Native Communities, with a focus on water resource management.  Kelsey was previously 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 (2014) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law (2015), where he was the Note and Comment Editor for the American Indian Law Review. A member of the Texas Bar, Christopher is currently working for Ernst & Young in Dallas, Texas, working in labor/employment law in their People Advisory Services Department.

Jaclyn Simi (2012) 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 (2012), where she was president of the Native American Law Students Association. Ms. Simi is currently an associate with the San Diego office of Ogletree Deakins, practicing employment litigation and counseling with an emphasis on sports law.  Ms. Simi was recently named a San Diego Super Lawyers Rising Star (2016) and to San Diego Business Journal’s Best of the Bar list (2106).   She is active member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Ted Griswold

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.

2015 Procopio Native American Practice Group Internships Awarded to Anna Hohag and Nichole Alex

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

Procopio is pleased to welcome Anna Hohag (University of Arizona) and Nichole “Nikke” Alex (University of New Mexico) as the 2015 summer interns for the firm’s Native American Practice Group. Each paid internship extends ten weeks, and provides an opportunity for a Native American law student, or law student emphasizing Native American Law, to gain hands-on experience dealing with everyday legal issues facing Native American communities. Procopio Interns also reach out to local Native American youth to provide guidance and inspiration regarding educational direction and opportunities.

Ms. Hohag is a first year law student at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, focusing on its Indigenous Peoples’ Law and Policy Program.   Ms. Hohag is a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe in Bishop, CA. Prior to entering law school, Ms. Hohag worked as a Tribal Liaison for Pala Band of Mission Indians from 2012 to 2014, working on land and environmental issues for the Tribe, including educating Tribal members on the American Indian Probate and Reform Act, and working with water and land settlements, sacred sites and the protection of natural and cultural resources.   She has over 4 years of youth mentorship experience, both on the Pala Reservation and for the Bishop Paiute Tribe, providing guidance for youth to succeed in higher education, as well as serving as a positive role model.

Ms. Alex is a second year law student at the University of New Mexico School of Law with an emphasis on Indian and Environmental law. Ms. Alex is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. Ms. Alex is the current student liaison for the New Mexico Bar Association Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law Section. Prior to attending law school, she was the Executive Director for the Black Mesa Water Coalition, an environmental non-profit that is dedicated to preserving and protecting Mother Earth and the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ cultures. She previously worked with the Diné Policy Institute applying Navajo Natural laws, and was an intern with the Tribal Science Council at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C.

Procopio’s Native American practice group extends the firm’s tradition of giving back to the community it serves through its summer internship program for Native American law students or law students interested in Native American law. The firm started this program in 2011 and has now welcomed nine interns since its inception. Notably, Jaclyn Simi, a 2012 intern and a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Stephanie Conduff, a 2013 intern and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, both continued to work with Procopio following their internships. For more about the Internship Alumni, click here.

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.