The Tribal Legal Development Clinic
(TLDC) provides a unique clinical training experience to students who are interested in working with Native Nations located within the United States on their legal development projects. The interdisciplinary clinic is open to both law students and students in the Masters program for American Indian Studies. Clinic faculty and students work on various approved legal development projects at the request of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian governments and organizations. Typical projects include constitution drafting and reform, drafting and amendment of statutes, creation of both western-style, traditional, and hybrid dispute resolution processes, and law clerk services to such forums. Students work with councils (legislatures), judiciaries, administrators, native organizations, and native communities to build, enhance, and/or reform their legal institutions and laws. Classroom instruction includes both substantive federal-Indian law and tribal law, and training in lawyering skills such as legal drafting, opinion writing, and cross-cultural representation.
Clinic faculty include Carole Goldberg
and James Kawahara
For more information about the TLDC, unit credit, enrollment and any prerequisites, click HERE.
The TLDC works closely with tribal attorneys, administrators, councils and grant managers to carry out legal projects and to execute grant deliverables as specified. The TLDC does not engage in litigation on behalf of individuals, tribes, or organizations.
The UCLA Tribal Legal Development Clinic is funded soley by donor contribitions, including generous support from UCLA alumni and a grant from the Southern California Edison Company.
Development of Tribal Constitution for Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians (Houlton, ME)
TLDC worked with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to construct laws that represent their interests, unique issues and aspirations. Faculty and students also engaged in community education sessions and presented provisions to the legislative body for adoption. TLDC worked with the tribe's Constitution Committee to prepare a final draft of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indian's first Constitution.
Hualapai Tribal Court of Appeals (Grand Canyon, Arizona)
Students assist in the development of an appellate system and rules of procedure for Native Nation that will reflect their culture and values.
Working with the Native Hawaiians to Share Constitutional Innovations (Honolulu, HI)
The TLDC works with Native Nations to both draft and reform their governing documents. Services include: researching comparative constitutions and relevant federal-Indian law issues; providing community education on the origins of diverse tribal and other constitutional provisions; organizing community involvement; and if requested, drafting constitutional provisions and presenting these provisions to the community for adoption.
Drafting a Tribal Children's Code with the Inupiat (Barro, AK)
The TLDC works with Native Nations to draft bills and adopt statutes (known as "codes" in Indian Country) in a variety of areas including court establishment codes, dependency, delinquency, criminal, wellness, traffic, environmental regulation, building codes, etc. Students research comparative tribal and state law and research relevant federal-Indian law. Faculty and students also engage in community education sessions and present provisions to the legislative body for adoption.
Student Testimonials & Experiences
I had a wonderful experience working with the Hualapai Tribe's Court of Appeals during both the fall and spring semesters. I learned so many things about working with a client and finding ways to meet their needs and design a system that is going to work for them, their culture, and their values. I never thought I had the ability to draft rules of procedure that would actually be used by a court, but that is exactly what I (and my teammates) did! It was so rewarding to see the progression of our work and to think that we had played an integral role in helping the Hualapai to have an appellate system that will bring justice and will far outlast our time working on the project. And it was so much fun to meet Hualapai members, visit the tribe, and really get a sense of the people and place we were working to help.
Summer Hamide, '09
The Tribal Legal Development Clinic was an incredible experience, providing me with practical skills along with a wonderful example of a marginalized community empowering themselves through the construction of law. We worked with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians developing their tribal consitution. As a practical matter, I was required to research obscure areas of law, draft constitutional language carefully, brainstorm practical solutions, and think on my feet during presentations in order to answer complicated questions based on my research. These skills should prove to be invaluable to any career I pursue in litigation or politics. In addition to pracitical skills, I was able to witness a community actually construct laws that represent their interests, aspirations and issues. They constructed laws to empower themselves, and it was very inspiring to be a part of that experience. It motivated me to work for the clinic for three additional semesters. I highly reccommend the clinic to anyone, particularly Critical Race Studies students, as a means for understanding the operation of law and how it can serve marginalized communities.
Ashwini Mate, '09