Native American Women and the Law was the focus of Thomas Jefferson School of Law's 10th Anniversary Women and the Law Conference (WLC) on Friday, February 18, 2011. The full title of this year's conference, co-sponsored by the California Indian Law Association , is "Gender Justice and Indian Sovereignty: Native American Women and the Law."
This one-day conference took place at Thomas Jefferson School of Law's brand-new, state-of-the-art campus just opened at 1155 Island Avenue in the East Village of downtown San Diego near Petco Park.
One of the many distinguished speakers at WLC 2011, UCLA Law Prof. Carole Goldberg, was just appointed by President Obama to the Indian Law and Order Commission, a body created last year by Congress and charged with undertaking a "comprehensive study of law enforcement and criminal justice in tribal communities," as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. Another speaker, Univ. of New Mexico Law Prof. Gloria Valencia-Weber, was recently appointed by President Obama to the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.
The WLC, inaugurated in 2001 by Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL) Professors Susan Bisom-Rapp, Julie Greenberg, and Susan Tiefenbrun, and fostered over the years by committed TJSL students, staff, and faculty, was the first regular conference series in the western United States focusing on issues pertaining to women, gender, and the law.
The WLC is organized by the Women and the Law Project at TJSL. The popular annual conference is open to the public and regularly draws a large audience of academics, legal practitioners, and other professionals as well as students from local universities.
The 2011 WLC Keynote Speaker and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecturer is Stacy L. Leeds, Interim Associate Dean, Professor of Law, and Director of the Tribal Law and Government Center at the University of Kansas School of Law. Her Ginsburg Lecture is entitled "Resistance, Resilience, and Reconciliation: Reflections on Native American Women and the Law."
Since 2003, the WLC has featured the annual Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture, thanks to the generous support of Associate Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court, who visited and lectured at the law school that same year. This is one of only two lecture series that Justice Ginsburg has authorized to be named in her honor.
In addition to her achievements as an academic leader and scholar, Ginsburg Lecturer Leeds, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is a nationally recognized leader among the judges serving America's Indian Nations. She serves as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Kaw Nation, and Chief Judge of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation District Court. She previously served as a Justice of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, the first woman and youngest person ever to serve on that Court, where she authored a famous ruling upholding the Cherokee citizenship rights of African American descendants of the "Freedmen Cherokee," a ruling later overturned by referendum amendment to the Cherokee Constitution, creating a controversy still under litigation. She has also served as Chair of the ABA Judicial Division Tribal Courts Council, on the Board of Directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, and on the Tribal Judicial Center National Advisory Board for the National Judicial College.
This conference will address a wide range of issues affecting Native American women, including gender-related violence and Indian Country law enforcement, development of Indian Nation courts, governments, and businesses, civil rights and intersectionality issues, and the leadership roles of American Indian women. In addition to Dean Leeds, the speakers will include a remarkable national assemblage of Native American women leaders from Indian Nation, Federal, and State governments and courts, law practice, and academia.
Previous WLC Keynote Speakers or Ginsburg Lecturers and the topics they addressed have included, among others: Stanford Law School Professor Deborah Rhode, women as workers; California Court of Appeal Justice Judith McConnell, women and the courts; U.C. Berkeley (Boalt Hall) Law School Associate Dean Kathryn Abrams, global feminist legal theory; Yale Law School Professor Vicki Shultz, sexuality in the workplace; Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna, confronting domestic violence; and UCLA and Columbia Law School Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, women of color and intersectionality.
The WLC has traditionally had a strongly interdisciplinary flavor, and strong local community involvement, and those traditions will continue with WLC 2011. Both women and men, Native Americans and non-Natives, scholars in both law and other academic fields, tribal elders and other leaders, practitioners of law, students, and all other interested persons are encouraged to attend and participate in WLC 2011.
The lead organizer for WLC 2011 is TJSL Professor Bryan H. Wildenthal, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the conference co-sponsor, the California Indian Law Association , and has taught American Indian Law, Constitutional Law, and Federal Courts and Jurisdiction, among other courses, since joining the TJSL faculty in 1996. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org