TJSL student Samantha Morales (2L) has been accepted for an eight-week summer internship at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. beginning on June 10. She will be assigned to the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ), which is the primary point of contact between DOJ and federally recognized Native American tribes.
“This is a tremendous achievement and shows that Thomas Jefferson students can and do compete at the highest level for the best internships and jobs,” said Professor Bryan Wildenthal, who teaches Indian Law at TJSL. “This achievement by Ms. Morales also fits well with Thomas Jefferson's on-going efforts to reach out to Native American communities and be of service on the important legal issues affecting Indian Country. Many people are surprised to learn that San Diego County has more federally recognized Indian reservations (18) than any county in the United States. TJSL offers lots of opportunities for students interested in Indian law and its many associated fields, such as environmental law, child welfare and other areas.
OTJ, where Morales will be working, advises the DOJ on legal, policy, litigation and protection matters over Indian Country, communicates policies and positions to tribal leaders, coordinates with the Office of Legislative affairs on efforts relating to Indian Country and serves as the liaison between tribes and federal, state and local officials, professional associations and public interest groups.
Thomas Lawrence Baca, a Native American attorney and leader in the national Indian law community, and regular guest speaker in TJSL's American Indian Law course, generously counseled Morales before her interview on how best to approach it, though he notes she had already secured the interview, and ultimately got the position, entirely on her own initiative and merits. Mr. Baca served as Deputy Director of OTJ from 2004 to 2008 and as President of the Federal Bar Association in 2009-10. He is one of a number of leading practicing attorneys whom students in TJSL's American Indian Law course have the opportunity to interact with and learn from.
TJSL is the only law school in the San Diego area to regularly offer a course on American Indian Law. It is taught by Professor Wildenthal, a full-time faculty member who has published widely in the area. TJSL faculty, staff, and students have been involved for years in organizations such as the California Indian Law Association and the Native American Lawyers Association of San Diego County. TJSL was proud to make "Native American Women and the Law" the focus of its annual Women and Law Conference in 2011.