The recent workshop, Tribal Court Trial Skills College, presented by the Indian Legal Program was a showcase of the program’s faculty, alumni and students.
"Tribal justice systems are essential to governance,” said Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, ILP Faculty Director and Director of the Indian Legal Clinic, who welcomed participants and gave an overview of the case and explained the essentials of “The Trial Notebook.
”Tribal court advocates impact the daily lives of tribal members and the core functions of tribal government through their advocacy,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “Because there are few opportunities for tribal court advocates to receive trial skills training, this training fills an important need in the community. Strengthening our tribal justice systems strengthens our tribal communities."
The three-day workshop, coordinated by Naomi White (Class of 2010), a summer faculty associate with the Indian Legal Clinic, was geared toward lay and law-trained tribal attorneys and judges, to help them improve their trial skills. Ten tribes sent participants to the workshop, which was was funded by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Two weeks before the workshop, participants were given a “case file,” for a simulated trial where participants conducted opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations, jury selection and instructions and closing arguments. Participants then were given individual feedback and evaluations from workshop judges.
The Hon. Anthony Hill (Class of 2007), Chief Judge, Gila River Indian Community, gave a presentation on the "Etiquette of Practicing in Tribal Courts."
“We share our knowledge and experience by bringing professional and personal experiences gained through the practice of representing clients (governmental and individually) in real life settings and share strengths as models for practice for personal and professional development,” Hill said.
Other College of Law faculty participating were Ann Marie Bledsoe-Downes (Class of 1994), Interim Executive Director for the Indian Legal Program, who discussed the “History of Federal Indian Law,” ILP Professor Rebecca Tsosie, who gave a presentation on "Civil Jurisdiction;" Professor Bob Dauber, Clinical Professor of Law, who covered “Opening Statements,” and Professor Robert Bartels, the Charles M. Brewer Professor of Trial Advocacy, who handled “Cross Examination.”
Jennifer Giff (Class of 1995) and Mary Shirley (Class of 1992) served as judges and provided feedback to participants, and Marnie Hodahkwen (Class of 2002) and Judy Dworkin (Class of 1986) counseled participants on trial strategy.
Jason Croxton (Class of 2010), Robin Commanda (Class of 2011), Mandy Cisneros (Class of 2011) and Erin Biencourt (Class of 2012) played the role of witnesses. And future alumni Connie Goudreau, Tahda Ahtone, Jonathan Sanchez, Ed Hermes and Joe Keene, also played witnesses.
“We all need to further our professional development at any stage in our lives and to give assistance to others and provide them with the encouragement to use the skills they have practiced in the course,” Hill said.
Having alumni (and friends) help with the training is significant, Hill said.
“We come from a point of reference with the common knowledge that what we do in practice can better the lives of our clients whether they are a government or individual,” he said. “Because the group has common knowledge, they are more capable of sharing and understanding the present state of things within the tribal governments and interests of persons who are involved with tribal people and tribes.”
Jennifer Williams, Certified Legal Assistant with the Indian Legal Clinic, thanked all those who participated.
“We couldn’t have done it without all the people involved,” Williams said.