By Judy Nichols
Experts in Indian law who have worked on both sides of the government fence are scheduled to speak at an upcoming conference titled, "Administrative Law: Indian Tribes & the Federal Agency Maze."
The two-day conference, put on by the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, is scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. (Continuing Legal Education credit is available.)
"It's the most high-powered group I've seen assembled on the topic," said Kevin Gover, a professor in the Indian Legal Program and former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"It is a hands-on faculty with deep experience with tribes and agencies, many from both sides," he said. "Two-thirds are senior executives or senior lawyers in federal agencies, or litigators against federal agencies, or both."
One of those speaking will be John Leshy, professor of real property law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and former ASU law professor, who worked in the federal government in several positions, most recently as Solicitor (General Counsel) of the Interior.
"The federal government is a complicated institution that operates according to customs and rules that tribes sometimes have a hard time understanding," Leshy said. "But it is essential that tribes understand how the federal government really works to be effective in dealing with them. I will try to give people a picture of how the government really works from the inside." Gover said the conference has two components: providing basic information about laws that govern federal agency behavior and outlining how federal agency behavior affects Indian rights.
"You have to understand the first level before you can get to the next," said Gover, who worked for 11 years in federal government. "People tend to think the courts and Congress define tribal rights, but agencies make rules and definitions every day that define tribal rights."
Elizabeth Homer, who served as vice chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission and as Director of the Office of American Indian Trust at the U.S. Department of the Interior, will speak about effective advocacy in the administrative process.
"In terms of Indian affairs, administrative law skills are among the most important for tribal attorneys given the special trust relationship and virtually daily interaction between tribes and federal agencies," said Homer, who now has her own law firm in Washington, D.C., that focuses on law related to Indian and tribal issues.
The conference is aimed at three audiences: tribal officials who have to deal with federal agencies, federal agency officials who have a responsibility to tribes, and attorneys for tribes and federal agencies.
"Every tribal attorney eventually becomes an expert in administrative law, whether they like it or not," Gover said. "Administrative law often is regarded as a boring, curious little specialty, but in reality, administrative law cuts across almost any other practice, and Indian law more than others."
To register, go to www.law.asu.edu/ILPMazeCLE. For more information, contact Darlene Lester, at Darlene.Lester@asu.edu or 480-965-7715.