Now Accepting Applications for Procopio’s 2015 Native American Internship Program

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

Procopio has a long-standing tradition of providing growth opportunities to the communities we serve. Procopio’s Native American Practice Group extends this tradition by actively investing in the future leaders of Indian Country through offering paid internships for Native American law students or law students with an emphasis in Native American law. Please join us in identifying qualified legal students within Native American communities that may be interested in being part of this engaging opportunity.

The Native American Law Internship 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. Interns are involved in matters that deal with specific Indian law-related legal practice matters and other legal problems facing tribal governments and Native entities. Procopio Interns reach out to local Native American youth to provide guidance and inspiration regarding educational direction and opportunities.

Interns join a nationwide network of the next generation of Native American attorneys in an active alumni program consisting of judicial clerks, governmental attorneys and associates at law firms. If you are interested in where the past interns are following their summer with the Native American Practice Group at Procopio then you may want to look at last week’s post (Where are they now? 7 and Counting… The Procopio Native American Internship Alumni).

To learn more about our practice area and issues affecting Native people, you may consider subscribing to our blog by clicking follow on the bottom left of this page. Then, each week, you will receive up-to-date information relating to law, policy and current events in Indian Country from Procopio attorneys and guest contributors.

Applications are due Friday, October 17th by 5 p.m. PST. We would like a writing sample, law school transcript, resume and cover letter identifying why this is an opportunity you would like to pursue, any tribal governmental experience you have and why Native legal issues are significant to you. The program extends between eight to ten weeks and begins after May 11, 2015. Applications can be emailed to ted.griswold@procopio.com or sent in by mail to: 525 B Street, Suite 2200, San Diego, California, 92101.

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.

Links:

https://turtletalk.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/2014_annual_irr_agenda_book-authcheckdam1.pdf

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.

PLSI: Empowering Indian Country, Building the Legal Profession and Native Bar

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

Transitioning into law school can be a difficult process.  The methods of research, analysis, and writing that are distinct to the legal profession are different than those learned in undergraduate or other graduate course work.  The ability to think like a lawyer is a trained and developed skill, and doesn’t come naturally to many people.  This is why the Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) has become invaluable in preparing Native Americans for the rigors of law school.  The PLSI is a two month law school preparatory program run by the American Indian Law Center for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Classes are held every June and July at the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law.  Students that have been accepted to any law school and those interested in applying or waiting to get in may attend the program.  It is an intensive program which mimics the first year of law school.  Participants take courses like Federal Indian Law, Torts, Property, and Legal Writing.  The credits you receive do not transfer to law school, but the experiences and knowledge you obtain far outweigh any school credits.

The PLSI was started by former UNM School of Law Dean, Fred Hart.  His idea was to start a preparatory law curriculum for Native Americans that was based on sound legal education principles, rather than a space for a philosophical, political, or cultural training ground.  The PLSI has now existed for more than four decades and has been extremely successful.  Every year about 30 students go through the program, and virtually all graduate law school.  It has been touted as the most successful pipeline program for Native Americans in the country.  Former UNM School of Law Dean and now Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, is a graduate of the PLSI.  I attended the PLSI two summers ago, and it was an invaluable experience that prepared me for the demands of law school.  The PLSI also plugs its graduates into a network of former participants who are now attorneys, judges, administrators and other professionals.

More programs like the PLSI should exist for various professions for Native Americans.  The PLSI has no doubt boosted the number of Native Americans successfully attaining law degrees, and similar programs would certainly increase the number of Native Americans with medical, business and other advanced degrees.  If you are a Native American interested in attending law school, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the PLSI.  It will give you a strong fundamental base of law school skills that will allow you to succeed in law school and your profession.  It will give you a confidence on your first day of law school that your peers will not have.  As more Native Americans become credentialed with college and advanced degrees, our ability to run self-sustaining Native communities increases significantly.  To learn more about the PLSI, click here.

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.

Good News Regarding Income Tax Relief for Certain Tribal Government Programs

By: Eric D. Swenson | Senior Counsel | eric.swenson@procopio.com
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

On June 4, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Procedure 2014-35, which provides the requirements that must be met order for an Indian Tribal program to meet the requirements necessary for the General Welfare Exclusion to apply.  A General Welfare program is a social welfare program offered by a government to its people, including Indian Tribe’s to its tribal citizens.  Under the General Welfare Exclusion, the value of what is provided to the recipient is  not be taxable under the General Welfare Doctrine if the particular program requires that the recipient show financial need.  Under the new IRS Rule, the IRS is removing this “financial need” requirement for Indian Tribal programs that draft their programs in accordance with the rules set forth in the IRS Revenue Procedure.

Examples of benefits that are generally not taxable under the General Welfare Exclusion, where financial need is a requirement, include health coverage, educational assistance, sustenance payments (e.g., utilities), relocation assistance, and disaster relief.  These services are affected by this Ruling.  Tribal governments operating social welfare programs should review their program terms to avoid exposing Tribal citizens to the risk of potential and unnecessary taxable income that could otherwise be excluded.  Amending the program terms could also remove exposure of the Tribe to penalties for failing to properly treat such benefits for tax purposes.

To find a more detailed discussion on this issue, 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.

Attorney General’s Indian Country Fellowship

By: Stephanie Conduff | Law Clerk | stephanie.conduff@procopio.com
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The Department of Justice has created an opportunity in Indian Country worthy of serious praise. Prosecutors have the best shot at helping people. They are positioned to assist our people into more empowering places – restorative justice programs – including federal court programs for veterans.  For example, the U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Virginia, began its Veterans Treatment Court in spring 2011 when only one other existed at the federal level, in Utah.

We need to get Native people into this prestigious fellowship to protect our citizens!

Applications are being accepted for an Indian Country Fellowship that “is designed to create a new pipeline of legal talent with expertise and deep experience in federal Indian law, tribal law, and Indian Country issues that can be deployed in creative ways to build tribal capacity, combat violent crime, and bolster public safety in Indian Country jurisdictions.”

The Indian Country Fellowship is open to all eligible Honors Program applicants, including current law students graduating in the coming academic year.  The 2014-2015 Honors Program application opens on July 31st and closes on September 2nd.

Imagine … this time next year you could be in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska or Arizona! And what is even more amazing than that… you could be working in sovereign nations including the: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Navajo Nation, Santee Sioux Tribe, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Chickasaw Nation or Cherokee Nation.

With VAWA implementation upon us – this is an incredible time to experience both tribal and federal justice systems.

Links:

http://www.justice.gov/legal-careers/attorney-generals-indian-country-fellowship

http://www.roanoke.com/news/article_9e155062-849e-11e3-9296-001a4bcf6878.html

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.