From Gabe Galanda….
Tribal Lawyer Colleagues and Friends:
Last Thursday, the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors affirmed a 2004 Board decision to add federal Indian jurisdiction to Washington’s bar exam, by adopting a customized version of the Uniform Bar Exam, effective 2013, which will still include Indian law. According to draft Board minutes:
Governor Etengoff moved that the WSBA adopt as the Washington State Bar Exam the UBE, consisting of the Multistate Bar Exam-multiple choice exam (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), along with a Washington Educational Component Test (WECT), which will include Indian Law and other subjects particular to Washington State, and which consists of an online/course materials and online multiple choice exam, and also adopt the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) as Washington’s’ Professional responsibility exam. . . . Governor Etengoff’s original motion, as amended, passed 11-0-2. Governors Buri and Flood abstained. Governor Lee was not present for the votes on the Washington State Bar Exam.
Us Indian lawyers and bar leaders in Washington State are thrilled that Indian law was specifically preserved on our state’s bar exam, as our bar moves away from an all-essay format and towards the Uniform Bar Exam and a multi-state format for the first time in our history. We were very worried that Indian law, which has been included on the bar exam in Washington since 2007 and which has demonstrably impacted our legal profession and local tribal-state relations in many positive ways, was going to end up on the cutting room floor.
For tribal bar leaders in other states like Arizona and Oklahoma, who are lobbying to add Indian law to their state bar exams, the decision in Washington last week teaches a couple important lessons: First, notwithstanding the nationwide movement towards adoption of the UBE, local subjects like Indian law can still be incorporated into a UBE or multi-state format for bar examination. Washington has now set that precedent. New Mexico and South Dakota of course also test Indian law on their bar exams (although under what formats I do not know).
Second, while the issue of adding Indian law to state bar exams is chiefly one of ensuring lawyer competence for sake of protecting all state citizens – Indians and non-Indians alike – the issue is also one of tribal-state relations. As such, it is not only protocol, but it is strategically important, to involve elected leaders of the tribes in any movement in your state.
In Washington, we have had the good fortune of having nationally renowned tribal leaders like Chairmen Brian Cladoosby and Ron Allen write in support of including Indian law on our state’s bar exam. Both did so not once but twice, in 2004 and again in 2010. Their recent letters of support are available at:
We have also received vocal support from our Republican State Attorney General Rob McKenna, also on both occasions.
As most if not all state bar associations are extensions of state government, perhaps a state supreme court, it makes sense that on a government-to-government basis, the tribes engage the state bar associations on any issue of tribal implication, including this one. Elevating the discussion plane to one of tribal-state relations is definitely a game changer.
If folks in other states are plotting to have Indian law added to state bar exams in those jurisdiction, the NNABA Indian Law on State Bar Exams Committee and Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section Development of Federal Indian Law are available to help with strategic planning. Also, Professor Matthew Fletcher has generously uploaded various materials about the movement to have Indian law bar tested in some thirty states, to Turtle Talk, at