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Old 05-08-2009, 01:43 PM   #1
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Letter to President Obama

The following was written by a good friend of mine to President Barack Obama. This letter makes a lot of sense to me and is very timely.

What do you think???

____


Please find attached (and pasted below) our letter to President Obama
requesting he consider a Native American for the Supreme Court.
Accompanying the letter is a list of some potential Natives for federal
court positions as well.

Please feel free to circulate widely.

Sincerely,
Heather Dawn Thompson
President, National Native American Bar Association (NNABA)




President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Appointment of a Native American to the United States Supreme Court

May 6, 2009
Dear President Obama:

Cante waste un nape ciyuzapi (We shake your hand with a good heart.
-Lakota). As you weigh the various candidates for the upcoming Supreme
Court vacancy, the National Native American Bar Association strongly asks
you to consider a Native American candidate. While much of America is
underrepresented on the Supreme Court, the U.S. has never appointed an
individual indigenous to this country to its Supreme Court.

President Obama, the Native American community turns to you humbled. We
recognize with a warm heart that many of our brothers and sisters also
turn to you with sincere and important interests in seeing familiar faces
on the Supreme Court. However, we turn to you with pleas and desperation.
For over two hundred years the United States Supreme Court has sat in
judgment over us, over our lands, over our treaties, and over our
families. Not one single day have we ever had a voice in those decisions.

No Native American Supreme Court Justice, Federal Judge, nor Supreme
Court Clerk. Not only has a Native American never served on the Supreme
Court, there is not a single Native[1] on the federal bench in the entire
country,[2] and to the best our knowledge there has never been a Native
American Supreme Court clerk. There are 866 federal judgeships (9 on the
Supreme Court, 179 on the Courts of Appeals and 678 in the District
Courts), and not one Native American federal judge.

Dozens of Qualified Native American Candidates. While the Native bar is
small, where we lack in quantity, we excel in quality. Because there are
so few Native attorneys, they must each be excellent not only in their
own field, but in Tribal, state, and federal law as well. There are
dozens of Native attorneys qualified for the federal bench (a few
examples are attached), and a number of qualified Natives for the Supreme
Court such as John Echohawk (whom many consider the Thurgood Marshall of
Indian Country), Larry Echohawk, and Kevin Gover.

Disproportionate Effect of Federal Courts on Native Americans. In
addition, the Supreme Court and federal court decisions often
disproportionately affect Natives. As outlined in the U.S. Constitution,
Tribal governments are Nations pre-dating the formation of the United
States, and the relationship is regulated by Congress. Most Indian
reservations continue to be in “federal trust” and federal criminal law
applies on most Indian communities. Not only do federal courts oversee
this Congressional relationship with Tribes and the treaty and trust
responsibility to Tribes and its citizens, Tribal citizens are the only
group in the country that has an entire code of federal law (25 USC)
devoted to them.

Hurdles: State Acrimony/Value of Tribal court experience. Two additional
hurdles continue to hinder on-going efforts of Natives to participate in
the federal bench: the state nominating structure, and the lack of
understanding of Tribal court experience. Unfortunately many states and
state legal infrastructures continue to have a very acrimonious
relationship with Tribes and Native Americans. It is in these states
where Natives are most desperately needed on the federal bench to bring
forth an additional perspective. But it is often here where Natives are
the most unlikely to be successful due to federal deference to the local
state nominating process. In addition, a misunderstanding of Tribal
courts has often led to an incomplete valuation of the experience of our
esteemed tribal court judges and tribal appellate court justices. In
order to serve as a Tribal court judge one must not only have an
understanding of oral tribal customs, but of all written tribal
constitutions and laws, all state laws, and all federal laws.


President Obama, we recognize and respect the difficult decision before
you, and the many interests you must weigh. We ask only that our lack of
voice for over 200 years be a consideration in your decision.


Lila wopila (Greatest thanks),
Heather Dawn Thompson (Cheyenne River Sioux – Mnicoju/Itazipco)
President, National Native American Bar Association




[1] Enrolled Tribal members (American Indian/Alaska Native) or Native
Hawaiians
[2] This fact is confirmed by the Biographical Directory of Federal
Judges constructed by the Federal Judicial Center which includes data on
race or ethnicity for all federal judges. The link for the directory is
available at Judges of the United States Courts. In the past
30 years, only two Native Americans have served on the federal bench: (1)
Judge Frank Howell Seay, nominated by President Carter and confirmed in
1979 to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Oklahoma, assumed
senior status in 2003; and (2) Judge Billy Michael Burrage, nominated by
President Clinton and confirmed in 1994 to the U.S. District Court,
Northern District of Oklahoma, resigned in 2001.



Federal Judicial Appointments: Some Possible Native American Candidates
[1]
May 2009






Arizona
· Diane Humetewa (Hopi)
· Faith C. Klepper (Navajo)

Arkansas

· Hon. Denette Mouser (Muscogee (Creek))

California
· Hon. Deborah Sanchez (Chumash, decendant)
· Tom Weathers (Qawalangin Tribe of
Unalaska)

Colorado
· John Echohawk (Pawnee)

DC
· John Echohawk (Pawnee)
· Keith Harper (Cherokee)

Illinois
· Mary Smith (Cherokee)

Michigan
· Hon. Joe Martin (Menominee)
· Professor Matthew Fletcher (Grand
Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians)

Minnesota
· Hon. Robert Blaeser (White Earth
Anishinaabe)
· Hon. Anita Fineday (White Earth
Anishinaabe)
· Dean Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw)

Montana
· Donald “Del” Laverdure (Crow)
· Danna Jackson (Confederated Salish and
Kootenai Tribes, descendant)

North Dakota
· Steve Emery (Cheyenne River Sioux)

Oklahoma
· Arvo Mikkanen (Kiowa/Comanche)
· Hon. Denette Mouser (Muscogee (Creek))
· Allison Thompson(Muscogee (Creek))

Oregon
· Hon. Suzanne Ojibway Townsend (Minnesota
Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band)

South Dakota
· Steve Emery (Cheyenne River Sioux)
· Tracey Fischer (Cheyenne River Sioux)

Washington

· Hon. Theresa Pouley (Colville)

Supreme Court
· John Echohawk (Pawnee)
· Kevin Gover (Pawnee)



[1] NNABA also has an official “endorsement” process when specific
individuals are being considered for specific judicial openings. Above,
however, you will find a list of some Native American attorneys for
possible federal judicial appointments to help show the depth and breadth
of Native Attorneys. As of May 2009, to the best of NNABA’s knowledge,
there are no enrolled Tribal members on the Federal bench.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:07 PM   #2
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i heard hillary is a candidate, rumor i dont know
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Old 05-08-2009, 04:32 PM   #3
We'll See....
 
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Humm.... I'm glad to see someone actually address the issue and not just sit back and complain.

I hope it succeeds!
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Old 05-08-2009, 05:10 PM   #4
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theres alot of what ifs huh?

it would be cool to see a female justice,, so lets just say our AZ AG from hopi became a member of the supreme court. awesome then what?

and,

i wouldnt know what to say if it actually set indian nations back based on decisions made.

what exactly is heather dawn thompson lookin for ifff a native justice is appointed?

haha, what are we all hoping for?

whome i noticed you didnt comment? what are yer thoughts?

its friday afternoon and i cant really think that deep right now cause my brain is already gone for the wkend. but theres still alot of queestions.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:01 PM   #5
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I've heard good things about Diane Humetewa, and about the Echohawks also.

There are so many groups out there lobbying for their own candidate - hopefully a Native will be seriously considered too.
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by injunboy View Post
whome i noticed you didnt comment? what are yer thoughts?


injun,

Well since you asked...

There was a time when Native people did not have their own to represent themselves in a United States court of law. This was similar in my opinion to "taxatiion without representation."

Today we have qualified Natives who not only understand laws in their respective areas but also the law as it applies to federal trust law and the federal code uniquely applied to federally recognized tribes.

Over the past 20 years, American Indians have lost approximately 80% of cases sent to the higher court.

I feel if we had a Native judge sitting in the Supreme Court, we would have a voice to educate other supreme court judges about law as it applies to American Indians.

Perhaps our track record of loses in the higher courts would have a profound turnaround?
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:05 PM   #7
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still living here through it all and being the original people of this land.. you would think that they would create a seat just for us!!
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Old 05-14-2009, 01:01 AM   #8
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im actually pretty proud of that comment, haha

barack is this close ... to his african roots. he wasnt even born here. its kinda ashame he gets the power to appoint a justice. its prolly more complicated than that huh? im just saying.
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