Petitioners Request Out-of-State Lawyers Be Allowed to Represent Protesters

Link: The Bismarck Tribune article by Caroline Grueskin


The unprecedented arrests at Standing Rock overextended available defense attorneys. Defendants are worried their civil rights are at risk and are asking the courts to allow out-of-state attorneys to defend them.

Excerpts of Tilton’s testimony, by topic:

On the reluctance of in-state attorneys:

[M]any licensed North Dakota criminal defense attorneys feel conflicted in taking these cases, either because the attorneys have close relations with law enforcement folk who are undertaking the arrests, or because the attorneys have personal interests in the pipeline construction industry, some of them directly with the DAPL. Other licensed North Dakota criminal defense attorneys have been reticent to take anti-DAPL protesters as clients because they live far distant from the South Central District courts where the cases will be tried. Some criminal defense attorneys have already maxed out their public defender contract allotments. Others have undertaken representation of one or a few DAPL protesters and are not interested in taking on more…

I have also personally talked with multiple persons charged as defendants in these anti-pipeline protests who have expressed extreme dissatisfaction with assigned attorneys given to them through the Indigent Defense Commission. Multiple defendants have complained that some public defender-assigned attorneys have been unwilling to take their phone calls, have not called them back, and have seemed uninterested in doing a thorough investigation of the factual circumstances of the arrests.

On the current caseload:

… I count 113 defendants as having requested an appointed attorney from the Indigent Defense office, but having been turned down.

… I count 40 individuals who are listed in the column “Returned Mail,” meaning that letters to them have been returned to the clerk’s office for some reason. All but 9 of these defendants also have “None” entered in the “Attorney” column, meaning that some of all of the remaining 31 people will not be getting notices from the court of from counsel.

[A]s of December 2, 2016, 264 defendants will be appearing pro se unless means are developed to provide them access to counsel.

On the cost:

In those discussions [with the North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents (CLCI)] I have learned that none of the $17 million in emergency funding sought by the governor has been attributed to the increased need for legal defense resources to guarantee the right to counsel for indigent defendants. Similarly, it appears none of the additional funds has been attributed to supplementing the already-stressed court personnel.

About Sarah M Donnelly

Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law.
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One Response to Petitioners Request Out-of-State Lawyers Be Allowed to Represent Protesters

  1. Pingback: Indian Law Firms’ Letter to N.D. Supreme Court Re DAPL Arrestees’ Right to Counsel | Turtle Talk

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