white-tailed deer

Indian Law Clinic represents tribes in first trial

Mitchell’s Indian Law Clinic has finished its first major trial. The clinic represented the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Indian Community, and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in a case before Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin.

The case centered on the tribes’ right to hunt white-tailed deer at night off-reservation in the ceded territory of Wisconsin and included expert witnesses on topics including hunting safety, biology and ecology of deer, Ojibwe culture, and recreational trends on public lands.

Mitchell students John Donovan, 3L, Nic Leversen, 3L, Nels Paulsen, 3L, Peter Rademacher, 3L, Melissa Lorentz, 2L, and James Ryan, 2L, didn’t have a lot of downtime during the five-day trial.

Professor Routel

Professor Routel

“Our students literally worked around the clock on the case,” said Professor Colette Routel of Mitchell’s Indian Law Program. “They prepped our direct witnesses, helped develop cross-examination materials, worked on pocket briefs on discovery issues, and researched evidentiary issues. They got the full trial experience—from the 2 am counsel meetings, to running into the courtroom with a box of key documents right at the moment during my cross-examination when they were necessary.”

During the spring semester, the case was also staffed by Bonnie Claxton ’13, Ellen Frick ’13, Veronica Newcomer ’13, Brieanna Hoban, 3L, and Kelly McGinty, 3L.

“Our clients were extremely grateful for all of the hard work our students put into this project and they are planning to honor them at an upcoming meeting of their Voigt Intertribal Taskforce,” said Routel.

“It was evident that the students have recognized the importance of treaty reserved rights of the Ojibwa tribes,” said Chris McGeshick, chairman of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community. “Their long hours of work allowed for their abilities to rise and shine above what I believed possible when it came to providing all the intricacies of law. The students were clearly prepared for their task and their focus allowed for me to challenge myself to be a better witness in this case.”

James Zorn, executive administrator of the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, agreed. “The students’ contributions were invaluable,” he said. “They grasped what the case was about and mastered the facts and law in play. I come away from this trial impressed by William Mitchell’s Indian Law Clinic and all those involved with it.”

Judge Crabb set a post-trial briefing schedule that will extend into September; she is expected to issue a decision by the end of September or beginning of October.

Indian Law at William Mitchell College of Law