Kevin Gover

Yesterday we received two news items that were three time zones apart, but each says something important about Indian law issues.

The more specific Indian Law analogue was the announcement of an ABA award to Kevin Gover, who is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Pertinent for us, he has Arizona ties and is a longtime law professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

He will receive the 2011 Spirit of Excellence Award, given by the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

More information on the award is here. You can read Gover’s profile, via the ASU Law School, here.

As the ABA says:

“Gover has been a tireless champion for the rights of Native American tribes,” said Fred W. Alvarez, commission chair. “He walked his first picket line as a 10-year-old member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and marched as an undergraduate at Princeton University to draw attention to the plight of American Indians.  He rose to become Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the United States Department of Interior, responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and overseeing a $2.2 billion budget and supervising 10,000 employees  Since 2007, he has led an institution dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. His career has been truly extraordinary.”

“Gover began his career in Indian affairs more than 30 years ago, with his post on the American Indian Policy Review Commission. Shortly after receiving his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, he joined the Indian law division of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampelman, where he worked exclusively on matters relating to the American Indian community. Gover later formed his own firm, focusing his practice on Indian law, which eventually became one of the largest Indian-owned firms in the country. His work caught the eye of then President Bill Clinton, who appointed Gover to his Department of the Interior post in 1997.”

Charles Calleros

(The Arizona honor continues even further: Also earning the Spirit of Excellence Award is ASU Law Professor Charles Calleros. Congratulations to both.)

The other news item that affects Indian Law issues was the announcement by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that a vacancy on the Supreme Court would be filled by Robert Brutinel, a judge on the Superior Court for Yavapai County. We reported on that yesterday.

It was Faith Klepper, former chair of the Arizona Attorney Editorial Board, who pointed out (on Facebook) that Judge Brutinel has some experience in Indian law matters.

According to his application for the position (available here at the Supreme Court website, but who knows for how long, now that he’s been named to the Court), he indicates that when he was in private practice he represented an Indian tribe. He goes on to say:

“As a practitioner, I was involved in the drafting of major revisions to the Yavapai–Prescott Indian Tribal Code. I drafted a number of ordinances in various areas of the law for the Tribe.”

Judge Robert Brutinel

The new Justice is highly accomplished in many areas, and has even been honored this year as the Judge of the Year by CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates.

But having some Indian Law experience could be extremely helpful in Arizona. And it may even have an impact on how law is taught in this state.

As we’ve noted before, a petition submitted to the Arizona Supreme Court to add Indian Law to the state’s bar exam has been tabled for quite some time now.

If the addition of Indian Law will not happen while the Court considers signing on to a broader uniform bar exam, maybe Justice Brutinel will be influential in another area: getting Indian Law added to the training for lawyers admitted on motion, without taking an Arizona bar exam.

After all, a lawyer who has worked on the drafting of an Indian Law Code may be particularly attuned to its value. That, too, would add to a spirit of excellence.

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