Spring 2022
Message from the director
I hope this newsletter finds you well. It has been another successful year for the KU Tribal Law & Government Center (KU TLGC), and it is my pleasure to update you on the center's accomplishments. First, a note on the impacts of the pandemic on tribal communities in the last couple of years.

The TLGC has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic along with the rest of the world. The impacts on tribal communities have been devastating. It has been more important than ever that the TLGC continues to serve local tribes and provide much-needed support. Through the TLGC, KU students drafted critical documents and procedures to help our local tribal partners transition through COVID-19. This assistance helped the TLGC establish stronger tribal relationships than ever.

In this edition of our annual TLGC newsletter, you'll learn about a KU Law team winning first place at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition. KU Law also celebrated 25 years of operation at the TLGC. And lastly, hear from an alum who serves as chief trial court judge for the Oneida Judiciary.

TLGC alumni continue in the proud tradition of helping Indian country. Regularly, we receive notes updating us on the amazing work our alumni are doing, and we are very proud. If you have news that you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you. Some of our alumni are highlighted below.

Rock Chalk!

Shawn Watts
Director, Tribal Judicial Support Clinic
Lecturer of Law
785-864-4513 | shawn.watts@ku.edu

October 10, 2022
Indigenous Peoples' Day

November 2022
Native American Heritage Month

Sept. 30 - Oct. 1
KU Law Reunion Weekend
KU Law team wins championship at national Indian law moot court competition

For the second consecutive year, a University of Kansas School of Law team won first place at the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition.

Second-year law students Emily Depew, of Neodesha, and Douglas Bartel, of Olathe, defeated a team from Boston University School of Law in the final round of the virtual competition Feb. 27. Depew and Bartel also won the third-place award for best overall advocates.

Three additional teams competed at the event, including Kevin Barnett, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Clay Karpowich, of Lenexa; Braydn Monhollon, of Berryton; Heddy Pierce-Armstrong, of El Dorado; Brittany Ussery, of Jackson, Missouri; and Alexandra Valin, of Haifa, Israel. Forty-seven teams from law schools around the country competed.

This is the sixth time in the past seven years that KU Law has placed in the top three at the NNALSA competition. KU Law teams brought home the national championship in 2016, 2019 and 2021 as well as second-place finishes in 2015 and 2017.

25 Years: Tribal Law & Government Center

The Tribal Law & Government Center celebrated 25 years of offering Indian law courses and programs during the 2020-2021 academic year. The center introduced its first course in fall 1995, shortly after Robert Porter helped establish the center and became its founding director.

Since then, more than 40 students have earned the Tribal Lawyer Certificate, with many more enrolling in classes or participating in the center’s programs.

These days, about 15-20 students are actively working on Indian law issues at any given time, interning with the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic, competing in the National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) moot court competition, or participating in NALSA student organization activities.

Jayhawk Judges: Layatalati Hill, L'12
Judge Layatalati Hill, L’12, was one of four alumni judges featured in the 2021 KU Law Magazine. Hill is chief trial court judge for the Oneida Judiciary in Wisconsin.

Layatalati Hill always knew he wanted to do work that helped people.

A citizen of the Oneida Nation, Hill grew up on the Oneida Indian Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin. After his education brought him to Lawrence to attend Haskell Indian Nations University, he enrolled at KU Law, earning a J.D. and Tribal Lawyer Certificate in 2012.

Hill returned to Oneida after graduation, starting out as a staff attorney with the Legislative Reference Office for the Oneida Nation. When the Oneida Judiciary established a trial court system in 2014, Hill saw an opportunity to give back to his community in a new way. He ran for one of the newly created trial court judge positions, winning a six-year term that ended in 2020, when he was elected chief judge.

Now, as chief trial court judge for the Oneida Judiciary, Hill oversees a civil court that includes two trial court judges, a trial court clerk and a wellness court coordinator. Hill’s six-year term as chief judge runs through 2026.

“I just wanted to come back and help out the community however I can. If it’s serving as a judge or being an attorney or helping in any other way, really — it works out right now that I’m serving the community as a judge,” Hill said.

Graduate Profile: Aidan Graybill, L’21

Aidan Graybill, L’21, decided to become a lawyer to pursue her dream of advocating for Indian tribes. Three years later, Graybill is turning her dream into reality.

Graybill’s legal ambitions brought her to the University of Kansas School of Law, where she studied tribal law and federal Indian law. Graybill is a member of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, which is based in Kansas City, Kansas.

Graybill graduated last May with a J.D. from KU Law and a M.A. in Indigenous studies from KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After passing the bar exam over the summer, Graybill began serving as a Justice Catalyst fellow, working with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. In a joint fellowship with the Public Rights Project, Graybill is addressing predatory student lending affecting Navajo Nation citizens.

KU NALSA Chapter Update
Although KU Law’s NALSA chapter had a relatively quiet year due to the ongoing pandemic, we are thrilled to celebrate another first-place finish at the NNALSA Moot Court Competition. Congratulations to our second-year law peers Emily Depew and Douglas Bartel on their win! We also want to recognize the entire NNALSA moot court team who put in hours of practice to help prepare the winning team.

In March, several NALSA members worked with KU Law’s Admissions Office to host an online Native American Pre-Law Students Info Session, including a presentation and Q&A on attending law school.

Our NALSA chapter saw a few changes in leadership over the last year. After our elected president transferred roles, I, Kevin Barnett, was elevated from vice president to president. It has been an exciting opportunity for me. I was also recently elected secretary for National NALSA and will serve in that position through the end of next school year. I will be working for the Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor this summer in New Mexico/Arizona interning for the Chief Prosecutor on tribal prosecution matters.

I want to clarify with readers that I have no indigenous heritage myself and am not a member of any tribe. The rich Native American culture has always been of interest to me, and I am honored to be a part of this organization. My background is in Indian Child Welfare work for the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Tribe in northern Wisconsin, and I anticipate completing the Tribal Lawyer Certificate by the time I graduate.

Our NALSA Moot Court Competition winner Emily Depew will be interning at the Kansas City office for Peebles Kidder this summer. Peebles Kidder is a law firm that focuses exclusively on Federal Indian and Tribal law issues. Alex Valin, whose husband and children are Navajo Nation enrolled members, will be interning with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

In the coming year, we hope to hold outreach programs for undergraduate, Indigenous students at KU and Haskell to answer questions about law school, and if any students are interested in the topic specifically, Federal Indian Law’s role in Indian Country.

We also hope to incorporate more Indian law-focused materials into the core 1L courses. Our goal is to help our colleagues recognize the outsize role federal and supreme court law plays in the lives of Native Americans, and how greater empathy for those issues helps build the interpersonal skills that lawyers should have to meet the multitudinous needs of their clients.

We want to thank all of the readers of the Tribal Law and Government Newsletter for their continued support of our program and the KU Law NALSA chapter!

By Kevin Barnett, L'23; KU NALSA President, 2021-22
Alumni news

In every newsletter, we highlight the accomplishments of some of our KU Tribal Law & Government Center alumni. 

Sarah Deer, L’99, was named a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas. Deer is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and a leading expert on gender-based violence in Native American communities.

Joshua Arce, L’05, is president and CEO of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Arce has more than 20 years of experience in education management, social work and business development. He previously served on PWNA's board of directors.

Tracie Revis, L’10, is director of outreach for the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative. Revis’s work was recently featured in an article by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Hon. Layatalati Hill, L’12is chief trial court judge for the Oneida Judiciary, working with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Hill also serves as secretary-treasurer for the board of directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association.

Leslie Shannon Swimmer, L’13, recently completed a four-year term as an associate judge for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.

Aidan Graybill, L’21, is a member of the 2021 class of Justice Catalyst fellows. In a joint fellowship with the Public Rights Project, Graybill is addressing predatory student lending affecting Navajo Nation citizens while working with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.

Report your alumni news and update your contact and employment information at law.ku.edu/keep-touch. Have a story of interest to fellow alumni? Contact Margaret Hair at mhair@ku.edu