When students in UCLA School of Law's Tribal Legal Development and Tribal Appellate Court Clinics traveled to the Hualapai Reservation in Arizona in November 2007, with Professor Carole Goldberg, it wasn't only the Tribe who benefited from the visit. While gaining hands-on legal experience, the students also got a sense of what it means to really make a difference in a community.
"I think if I had to sum it up, I believe that it was a privilege to have the opportunity to work for this Tribe and it was an experience that I found to be very humbling," said Amy Pham '08, a member of the Tribal Legal Development Clinic.
Tribal Legal Development Clinic students have been working on projects for the Tribe's Court of Appeals, helping the Court develop its first set of Appellate Rules. Before arriving at Hualapai, students Amy Pham and Rumidol Vuong researched processes for generating appellate rules used at other tribes, in the state of Arizona and in the federal system. They also examined the scope of the Court of Appeals' rule-making authority under Hualapai law, as well as the potential topics for appellate rules. "The Tribe takes pride in their community and while they were welcoming, we had to prove that we had their best interests in mind," Pham said. "What we are drafting is going into their court system."
The students presented their research findings to Justices of the Court and members of the broader Hualapai legal community, including defense advocates and the tribal prosecutor. The Hualapai participants provided important insight into Hualapai cultural traditions, economic constraints and institutional arrangements. "A lot of people came to the presentation and they had comments for us. We listened to what they liked, what they didn't like, and we are now drafting the rules," Pham said.
Students from the Tribal Appellate Court Clinic, which provides law clerk services to the Hualapai Court of Appeals, also worked on a project for the Tribe's Court of Appeals. The students who made the trip to Hualapai - Mimi Chao, Andrew Goodman, and William Yu - wrote thorough and thoughtful bench memoranda to assist the Justices with pending cases, one of which was scheduled for oral argument on a day they were in Peach Springs, the Hualapai capital. "We first had to figure out what they were asking, and we looked at the state and federal laws, made comparisons and were then able to make our recommendations," said Andrew Goodman '09.
Many of the cases that come before the Hualapai high court are cases of first impression, making it necessary for the students to carry out creative research and analysis, drawing upon Hualapai legal understandings, as well as the experience of other tribal courts. "Nothing went as expected, but on this trip I learned to be more flexible and to take what comes at you, while always keeping an open mind," Goodman said. "Being well prepared was the key to our success."
While at Hualapai, the students also observed trial and appellate court proceedings and received a guided tour of the community from Judge Joseph Thomas Flies-Away, a national expert on Indian tribal law and Hualapai chief judge. Judge Flies-Away escorted them on a drive across miles of unpaved road to the Tribe's most spectacular economic development venture -- a "skywalk" over the Grand Canyon. "Judge Flies-Away is a big part of what made this experience special," Pham said. "He has done so much for the community and it was a privilege to be able to help him."
Due to its remote location, the Tribe has not been able to rely on casino gaming as an economic enterprise, and the community sees a strong court as a means to greater economic investment. "These are real people and real life situations, and our work is substantively helping them," Pham said.
Under Professor Carole Goldberg's supervision, Tribal Legal Development Clinic students are also making a difference by working on a project involving the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, located in northeastern Maine. A team of five students has been assisting the Tribe with the development of its first constitution. In October and November 2007, students accompanied Professor Goldberg to Houlton and made presentations to the Tribal Council, the Tribe's Constitution Committee, and the broader tribal community. By the end of the fall semester, they had drafted internal rules for the operation of the Constitution Committee and had designed a constitution development process that the Committee was prepared to adopt and submit to the broader membership.