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Lecture highlights criminal justice in Indian country

January 17, 2008

Kevin Washburn, a prominent law professor and expert in Indian legal issues, will speak on criminal justice in Indian Country for the first William C. Canby Distinguished Scholar Lecture at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“I have worked for more than five years on scholarship focused on the serious problems with criminal justice in Indian country, and I intend to provide an overview of those findings,” Washburn says. “In the course of this work, I’ve looked at federal prosecution, sentencing, trial juries and many of the practical challenges facing criminal justice in Indian country.”

The lecture, “American Indians, Crime, and the Law: Five Years of Scholarship on Criminal Justice in Indian Country,” will take place at 4:30 p.m., Jan. 24, in the Great Hall in Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus. The event is sponsored by the Indian Legal Program at the College of Law. It is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended. Those interested in attending can register by visiting the Web site, or by calling (480) 965-7715.

Two other distinguished experts on criminal justice in Indian Country – Diane J. Humetewa, an alumna of the College of Law and newly appointed U.S. attorney for Arizona, and Jon Sands, federal public defender for the District of Arizona – will comment after Washburn’s remarks.

Washburn is on leave from the University of Minnesota Law School, where he is an associate professor. He currently is serving as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

He was chosen as the first William C. Canby Distinguished Scholar in Residence, an honor named for Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Canby, who earned his law degree at the University of Minnesota in 1956, developed a lifelong interest in Indian law when, as clerk for Charles Whittaker of the U.S. Supreme Court, Canby watched the Court decide Williams v. Lee, a landmark decision affirming the right of reservation Indians to make their own laws and be governed by them. He came to Arizona in 1967 as a founding faculty member of the College of Law. He taught one of the first courses in Indian law, was instrumental in the creation of the College’s Indian Legal Program and established himself as a nationally recognized expert in the field. He regularly testifies before Congress in Indian legal issues and authors West’s Nutshell on American Indian Law, now in its fourth edition.

Canby said the Indian legal system is a critical part of the overall justice system in Arizona and many other states.

“Tribes need working justice systems to function as working societies, and they require a lot of attention and resources,” Canby says. “If they break down, there will be a huge gap.”

Judy Nichols,
(480) 727-7895
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law