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Experts Talk Tribal Sovereign Immunity & Tribal Courts

October 15, 2013

Experts Talk Tribal Sovereign Immunity & Tribal Courts

“Don’t ever speak to Indians about the law – talk justice with them.  Laws have taken their land and children.”

Those were the frank words of the Honorable Anthony J. Brandenburg, a 1979 graduate of the law school, the Chief Judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California and a recognized leader in tribal communities.  As someone who works tirelessly to improve the legal standing of Native Americans and the quality of life on reservations, he knows what he is talking about.

Judge Brandenburg spoke as one of the three panelists at a special event on Friday evening, October 4, at Thomas Jefferson School of Law that focused on “Tribal Sovereign Immunity and Tribal Courts.”  Presented by TJSL, in association with the school’s Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), the panel also included TJSL Professor Bryan Wildenthal, who wrote a book titled Native American Sovereignty On Trial:  A Handbook With Cases, Laws and Documents, and attorney Colin Cloud Hampson, of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry LLP, who has represented tribes in litigation in federal, state and tribal courts, as well as before federal agencies.

“Indian law is a fascinating specialty spanning everything from criminal to civil law issues,” said  Samantha Morales, NALSA vice-president.  “There are 109 federally recognized tribes in California, 18 of which are here in the San Diego area alone.  I was pleased that NALSA was able to co-sponsor this panel to help educate existing practitioners about tribal sovereignty issues.” 

“This MCLE event highlighted a very important and confusing area of the law: tribal jurisdiction,” added Rachel Weckhorst Espejo, president of NALSA.  “It was a great opportunity for our members to meet local practitioners and learn something, too.” 

And the NALSA members and practitioners present in the audience could not have had a group of more informed panelists from which to learn.

Professor Wildenthal teaches American Indian Law at TJSL is now at work on a series of articles that will eventually form his second book, offering a sweeping reinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment and its application of the Bill of Rights to the states.

Judge Brandenburg’s career has included more than 16 years of service on the bench In both the Municipal and Superior Courts at the Vista Courthouse. He has published a host of articles and has written and presented several programs on subjects including Indian Law, diversity training, tribal community relations and the legal and social issues facing Native Americans today. He works closely with tribal leaders, local state courts and law enforcement, and the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association as a community resource, educator and mentor.

Hampson advises and represents on a wide range of matters, including federal Indian gaming law, gaming regulation, water adjudication, Indian Self-Determination Act contracts, jurisdiction, recognition, environmental law, employment matters, leading and national resource development, tax, health and cultural resources.  He represented a California tribe in a successful lawsuit in federal court to speed up the Department of Interior’s processing of a petition for recognition as an Indian tribe.