Skip to main content

Ferguson-Bohnee receives 2011 Judge Learned Hand Award

February 04, 2011

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Director of the Indian Legal Clinic at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will be honored with a 2011 Judge Learned Hand Award from the Arizona Chapter of the American Jewish Committee on Tuesday, March 8, at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix.

The award honors the high principles in the tradition of Judge Learned Hand, late Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Ferguson-Bohnee, a member of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian tribe, is being honored for her exceptional work with the Indian Legal Program.

Ferguson-Bohnee recently was selected to become the new executive director of the Program in the fall, replacing Rebecca Tsosie, who is leaving at the end of the academic year to join the faculty of the University of New Mexico School of Law.

“This award recognizes that Patty is emerging as a major national leader on Indian legal issues,” said Paul Schiff Berman, Dean of the College of Law. “It is a particularly opportune moment to honor Patty as she begins charting the future of our nationally recognized Indian Legal Program.”

Under Ferguson-Bohnee’s direction, the Indian Legal Clinic has helped a 70-year-old Navajo grandmother secure the proper identification to vote, assisted in the fight to let a Native American first-grader keep his braids and delivered testimony to Congress regarding the federal recognition process for American Indian tribes, Berman said in his letter to the selection committee.

“I am honored to be selected for the Judge Learned Hand Award,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “Certainly, it goes without saying that the support from my colleagues, mentors and friends have been a vital part of the initiatives I have been involved in, and I share this honor with them.”

Tsosie attributes much of the clinic’s success to Ferguson-Bohnee’s efforts.

“Because of Professor Ferguson-Bohnee’s exceptional leadership, the Indian Legal Clinic is now recognized within the state and the nation as one of the premier clinical programs in the country serving Native American people,” Tsosie said.

Tsosie also praised Ferguson-Bohnee for her genuine passion to affect change for underserved communities.

“I am honored to work with a young faculty member who has such a sincere desire to effectuate recognition for legal rights and achieve legal reform for underserved communities and individuals in our society,” Tsosie said.

In a letter to the award committee, Bob Bartels, Charles M. Brewer Professor of Trial Advocacy at the College of Law, said Ferguson-Bohnee’s success comes from two things, her ability to involve students in important and challenging cases and her ability to inspire them to achieve greatness.

“She has taught her students the critical value of excellent lawyering by setting high standards for them and letting them learn that they can meet those standards if they work hard enough,” Bartels said.

The honorees were chosen by an independent selection committee consisting of 60 prominent elected officials, judges, corporate leaders, law professors and attorneys.

Ferguson-Bohnee has substantial experience in Indian law, election law and policy matters, voting rights and status clarification of tribes. She has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Louisiana State Legislature regarding tribal recognition, and has successfully assisted four Louisiana tribes in obtaining state recognition.

Before joining the College of Law in 2008, Ferguson-Bohnee clerked for Judge Betty Binns Fletcher of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth District and was an associate in the Indian Law and Tribal Relations Practice Group at Sacks Tierney P.A. in Phoenix. As a Fulbright Scholar to France, she researched French colonial relations with Louisiana Indians in the 17th and 18th centuries. She serves as the Native Vote Election Protection Coordinator for the State of Arizona.

Ferguson-Bohnee will be awarded alongside David Tierney, winner of the Lifetime Service Award, and Amelia Craig Cramer, winner of the Community Service Award.

Judy Nichols,
Office of Communications, College of Law