Bar News Dives Into Indian Law

It’s one of the worst-kept secrets about one of the worst things that can happen to a community, and for too long little has been done about it. 

“The pursuit of justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and people (MMIWP) is a growing concern in Washington state,” staff writer Noel Brady writes in the latest issue of Washington State Bar News. “For years, a mounting number of unsolved cases have vexed under-resourced prosecutors and law enforcement in rural and tribal jurisdictions. Acknowledging the gravity of the issue, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) took an unprecedented step by establishing the Washington State MMIWP Cold Case Unit.” 

Native Americans, especially Native women, experience disproportionately higher rates of violence than other U.S. populations, Brady explains in a breakdown of the new missing and murdered Indigenous women and people (MMIWP) cold case unit. With the goal of quelling murder rates that can be up to 10 times higher than the national average, the unit will investigate unsolved cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and other Native Americans, to support affected families, and to facilitate collaboration among law enforcement agencies, tribal communities, and advocates. 

In fact, most of the content in the new issue of Bar News focuses on Indian Law; it was developed with the help of the Bar News Editorial Advisory Committee and members of the WSBA Indian Law Section. Of particular interest for Indian Law practitioners and, more significantly, Indigenous communities throughout the United States, is a potentially significant departure concerning the question of sovereignty in Indian Country. 

EAC Chair and Indian Law Section Treasurer Drew Pollom explains how the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta “may signal a massive shift in the legal relationship between the tribes and the states” and includes a “reinterpretation of the history of Indian law” that “stands in contrast to the established principles between the three sovereigns.” 

Other Indian-law-themed content includes: an interview by staff writer Colin Rigley with retired tribal court judge and long-time Indian law practitioner Tom Tremaine, an overview of the Indian Law Section from Section Chair Bree Black Horse, and an Indian law resource guide from the King County law librarians. 

There’s even more in the new issue. Check out the WSBA’s 2022 Discipline Snapshot; an ethics guide to RPC 1.12, aka “the former judge rule”; updates from our regular columnists; and more.