Current Cases & Projects  |  Judicial Selection Project


Judicial Selection Project
Attorney: Richard Guest

Case Update

The Judicial Selection Project is about research and education: to educate the federal judiciary about tribal issues; to educate tribal leaders about the federal judiciary and the judicial nominations process; and to reach out to elected officials and the public at large about the need for judges in the federal courts who understand the unique legal status of Indian tribes. The research objective of the Project evaluates the records of judicial nominees on their knowledge of Indian issues. The analysis and conclusions are shared with tribal leaders and federal decision-makers in relation to their decision whether to support or oppose a particular nomination. The Project works with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure that all nominees are asked about their experience with Indian tribes and their understanding of federal Indian law during confirmation proceedings.

As part of its outreach to Indian country, the Obama Administration continues to seek the names of qualified Native American attorneys, tribal court judges and state court judges who are interested in being considered for vacancies on the federal bench. NARF and NCAI continue to work with the White House General Counsel Office, the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy to ensure that qualified Native candidates are considered and nominated to fill other current vacancies on the federal bench.

The education objective of the Project seeks to replicate the success of the historic visit by Supreme Court Justices O'Connor and Breyer to reservation communities during the summer of 2001. Since then, judges from the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Tenth Circuit and Eighth Circuit were invited and attended the NCAI Conferences held in Sacramento, Denver and Rapid City respectively. In August 2011 during the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference, Chief Judge Riley was joined by Supreme Court Justice Alito on a tour of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in a visit coordinated by NCAI and the South Dakota Tribes. In September 2011, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor visited the Jemez Pueblo, the Santa Domingo Pueblo, the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School and the University of New Mexico. During her stay, she expressed her view that a Justice needs to focus on only a few key priorities if they want to make a difference beyond their formal work on the Court.  As pet projects, she said that she has prioritized education and American Indian law.

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