Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clarence Thomas would Allow Strip Search of 13 yr Old Girl.

The Supreme Court on 25 June 2009 ruled 8-1 that then 13-year old Savana Redding’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when her school strip searched her looking for prescription strength drugs they believed she was holding. What struck me as odd in this ruling is that ALL, but one justice found Redding’s rights had been violated EXCEPT Justice Clarence Thomas.
Even today, Thomas’ name conjures cackles from folks who remember the scandal that surrounded his confirmation hearings. Thomas is no youngster and must remember the struggle of Blacks to enjoy the same rights as white Americans, yet he is the judge who repeatedly appears to rule in favor of obliterating an individual’s rights OR ignoring when they’re being violated. As I read the ruling, I was filled with sadness that the only glaring supporter of strip-searching a 13-year old girl after documents showed she waited more than two-hours outside the office of the school’s Vice-Principal’s without so much as a call to her parents was Justice Thomas. Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Abuse of authority of that order should not be shielded by official immunity.” Justice Thomas simply said that the majority’s finding second-guesses the measures that educators take to maintain discipline “and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge.” When a man of color believes that giving up rights to ensure safety is a plausible course of action something is definitely wrong. I ask myself if it matters whether we’re speaking of a justice on the supreme court or a person flipping burgers at Burger King, "Do minorities feel worthy of having equal rights?" To be clear, there wasn’t any mention of the race of Savana Redding; my concern is from the standpoint of a Supreme Court Justice upholding actions that minimize or obliterate someone’s rights.

Clarence Thomas succeeded Justice Thurgood Marshall – the first ever African American Supreme Court Justice. I do not believe Justice Marshall would approve of Supreme Court decisions issued by Justice Thomas.

The ClassicLiberal had this to say:
The case of Savana Redding, a young girl who was forced to strip for Arizona school officials who were looking for a little ibuprofen in 2003, has finally been ruled on by the Supreme Court.

Only 13-years old, and an honor student in the 8th grade, Savana had been forced to take off her clothing, because the school's vice principle found one over-the-counter naproxen pill, and a few 400-milligram ibuprofen pills (equal to 2 over-the-counter pills each) in the pocket of another student. The school officials didn't even feel the need to bother calling her mother.

Of course, no drugs were found.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled that the school administrators violated Savana Redding's rights. Writing about this story of Big-Brother's Assualt on an Innocent Child last August, I asked the question:

Are these "drug warriors" anything more than child molesters in this case?

Justice David H. Souter seems to agree with me, writing in his opinion (emphasis added):

The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions.

Justice Clarence Thomas however, the lone dissenter on the case, wrote:

Judges are not qualified to second-guess the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment ... Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments, nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school.

For a Supreme Court Justice that I generally believe gets it right, he's way out of line on this one!

Justice Thomas' opinion here, is radical, bizarre and dangerous. It is the very type of thought that has our country in the situation it is today. If we're going to "share" our parenting responsibilities with the State, allowing them free-range to humiliate our children as they please, make no mistake about it, freedom is unquestionably doomed.

First of all, the judges were not deciding "the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment." I'm not a judge, nor even a lawyer, and I can figure that out. And let me be straight-up here ... while I do believe that generally parents should take the teacher/administrators side (it's how we learn), but if this had been one of my little nieces or nephews ... there would have been an entirely different case being tried. I would have personally went and kicked the principal's ass!

Oh, cry me a river over your "vigilante justice" mantras as well. The state was the violator in this case, so they certainly weren't about to "serve and protect." These school officials are child molesters in my book. So any amount of trouble for me, would be a small price to pay, for doing what is right by protecting them.

"We the people" either have rights or we don't. There is no middle ground. Justice Thomas seems to feel "we the people" have no rights, outside the arbitrary political-constructs of law. With an economy on the verge of collapse and a government on the verge of default, the people of this country better start taking their natural rights seriously and know who they belong to, if we wish to pass freedom on, to future generations.

In the case of Savana Redding, Justice Souter wrote that what was missing in the case, "was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear."

Yet in spite of this fact, that there was no "probable cause," Justice Thomas would prefer to let deviant school administrators keep strip-searching children! Every American should be outraged.

Clarence Thomas thinks Voting Rights Act is Unconstitutional.

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone among the 9 Supreme Court justices, said he would have held Section 5 of The Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

Anyone who believes that only "liberal" judges are "activists" should read Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent in the 23 June Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder.

If an activist is a judge who wants to use the power of the courts to substitute his preference for the will of the people’s elected representatives, then Thomas fits the definition.

Legal scholars have known this about Thomas for some time. But still he gets held up as a stellar example of a "conservative" by those who spit "activist" as an epithet synonymous with "liberal."

There are times when justices can and should tell the legislative branches they’re wrong or they’re not doing their job. Sometimes, whether "activism" is acceptable depends on whether you like the outcome.

In the voting rights case, Thomas was the only one of the nine justices who wanted to throw out Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Right Act as an unconstitutional intrusion on states’ rights.

It’s not that other members of the court weren’t grinding their teeth over the provision. But none of them but Thomas were prepared to substitute their judgment for Congress’ at this point. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s opinion that decided the case on narrow grounds, basically avoiding for now a decision on Section 5’s constitutionality.

Some analysts are saying that Roberts essentially rewrote the law to achieve that result, an activist act in itself. Even under that interpretation, though, he backed away from a heavy-handed judicial pronouncement on a key civil-rights law most recently reauthorized in 2006.

The 15th Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote free from impediments based on race, color or "previous condition of servitude," directly empowers Congress to enforce it through "appropriate legislation."

Of course, like many constitutional provisions, defining what’s appropriate is left up to Congress and the courts.

Section 5 has been controversial from its inception because it requires only certain states, mainly from the old South, to get Justice Department clearance for any revisions in election procedures. Redraw congressional districts? Pre-clearance required. Switch from at-large voting to single-member districts? Pre-clearance required. Change school board district boundaries? Pre-clearance required.

Texas is one of the states that must go through pre-clearance. And the Northwest Austin MUD, which never has been accused of racially discriminating against voters, argued that if it couldn’t get exempted from the requirement the law must be unconstitutional.

Even those who want to do away with Section 5 acknowledge that in the 1960s it was an effective way to enforce equal rights against states that eluded their obligations by adopting onerous tests and arbitrary restrictions that prevented blacks from voting.

"Enforcement efforts before the enactment of Section 5 had rendered the right to vote illusory for Blacks in the Jim Crow South," Thomas wrote. "Despite the Civil War’s bloody purchase of the 15th Amendment, the reality remained far from the promise."

But the world has changed, he said, and the law should reflect that.

In his 19-page dissent, Thomas pointed out that in seven states covered by Section 5, Black voter registration exceeds the national average. He noted that in Texas Black registration and turnout in the 2004 election was higher than for whites.

For Thomas, that was evidence the law no longer meets the threshold for being a constitutional exercise of congressional power over the states.

But his argument could just as easily have been one made on the House or Senate floor for why Section 5 should be dropped. But Congress reauthorized it. And that makes Thomas sound as though he simply wants to override a choice he doesn’t like.

More than 40 years after the Voting Rights Act was enacted, "the violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains," he said.

And he doesn’t believe that states should continue to be burdened based on "second-generation barriers," racial polarization or "discrete and isolated incidents of interference with the right to vote." His bottom line: Extreme circumstances justify extreme remedies, but anything else falls short.

Reasonable people can argue that subtle behavior continues that unfairly suppresses minority voting. Likewise, reasonable people can argue that it’s unfair to keep putting jurisdictions through the delay and expense of pre-clearance when they’ve largely cleaned up their act or never acted egregiously in the first place.

But it’s hard to argue that only "liberal" judges are "activists" who try to shape the law to their preference.

You can say what you want about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and plenty has been said and little of it's flattering. But you can't say he's not a man of his word. Since that fateful day in 1991 when by the narrowest of the margins a deeply divided and even more deeply reluctant Senate confirmed him to the high court, Thomas vowed payback against those who ridiculed, reviled, and hounded him during the confirmation fight. He will never forget that humiliation.

He proved that again in yet another of his patented one man dissents against the court's majority ruling not to scrap a key section of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas went against his fellow hard line, strict constructionist, cut buddy Antonin Scalia in his dissent. He argued that he'd dump the Act since as he put it "The extensive pattern of discrimination that led the Court to previously uphold Section 5 . . . no longer exists. "

It does, and the other eight judges, Scalia included, obviously were bothered enough by the briefs from civil rights groups that implored the court to uphold the Act. They fully documented that more than a few districts in the South and the West have used rigged or malfunctioning voting machines, selective photo IDs, contrived language requirements, alleged ballot shortages, the absence of polling places and registrars, the selective use of felon laws, and intimidation tactics to chase as many blacks, Latinos and American Indians from the polls as possible. The Justice Department has filed dozens of complaints of voting irregularity and discrimination complaints in the past two decades.

Thomas's ridiculous lone wolf votes on race based court cases, of course, make no sense to most legal experts. But his decisions make sense because they have less to do with his warped interpretation of law and its practice than with his publicly expressed racial views, and his private vow to get revenge.

When asked how long he'd stay on the court, he reportedly said that he'd stay there for next 43 years of his life. He was 43 at the time. In a more revealing aside, he supposedly quipped to friends that it would take him that long to get even. Whether that is hyperbole or an apocryphal tale, it hasn't taken him 43 years to wreak his revenge.
He has been a one man wrecking crew to expunge race from law and public policy decisions. But this is not simply one man's personal bitterness over his alleged mistreatment by liberals and civil rights leaders. Or a case of his digging his heels in to push his retrograde view on racial matters. He wants more judges to think and act like him on the bench. And all the better if those strict racial constructionist judges happen to be minorities.

In his autobiography My Grandfather's Son, the bitter feelings that he holds against those who did so much to dump his confimration were on full display. He showed no sign of budging a step from the relentless public and private war he's waged against civil rights leaders and liberal Democrats. The "liberal mob" as he brands them has one goal, and only one goal, and that's to "keep the black man in his place." The black man of course is Thomas.

The other theme that courses through Thomas's clinical need for payback is his obsessive view of himself as the perennial martyr. In an American Enterprise Institute lecture in 2001, he wrapped himself in the martyr's garment and said that he expected to be treated badly for challenging liberal opinion.

Thomas's mean-spirited and vindictive views and legal opinions on the death penalty, age and gender bias, first amendment, prisoner rights and affirmative action cases were well known by the time he hit the court in 1991. It can hardly be said that Thomas latched on to judicial conservatism solely to curry favor with white conservatives to snatch a seat on the high court. He believes what he says and writes even when others don't and can't. But even if he didn't he'd still say and write the ridiculous things he does that masquerade as dissenting legal opinions. He's simply fulfilling his vow of payback.

A Supreme Court challenge to the Voting Rights Act, the government's chief weapon against racial discrimination at polling places since the 1960s, survived Monday 23 June in a ruling that nevertheless warned of serious constitutional questions posed by part of the law.

Major civil rights groups and other defenders of the landmark law breathed a sigh of relief when the court ruled narrowly in favor of a small Texas governing authority while sidestepping the larger constitutional issue.

After argument in late April, it appeared the court's conservatives could have a majority to strike down part of the law as unnecessary in an era marked by the election of the first African-American president.

But with only Clarence Thomas in dissent, the court avoided the major questions raised over the section of the voting law that requires all or parts of 16 states — mainly in the South and with a history of discrimination in voting — to get Justice Department approval before making changes in the way elections are conducted. This is puzzling and troubling. Of the nine Justices, Thomas was the lone dissenter. He is the only Black justice on the Court. He appears to go out of his way to adverse effect Blacks.

The court said that the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 in Austin, Texas, could apply to opt out of the advance approval requirement, reversing a lower federal court that ruled it could not. The district appears to meet the requirements to bail out, although the high court did not pass judgment Monday on that point.

Five months after Barack Obama became president, Chief Justice John Roberts said the justices decided not to determine whether dramatic civil rights gains means the advance approval requirement is no longer necessary. That larger issue, Roberts said, "is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today."

Attorney General Eric Holder called the decision a victory for voting rights and said the court "ensured that this law will continue to protect free and fair access to the voting booth."

Debo Adegbile, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawyer who argued for the preservation of the law at the high court, said, "The fact is, the case was filed to tear the heart out of the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and that effort failed today."

But critics of the law said the court made clear that it may not take such a restrained approach the next time a voting rights challenge comes it way.

"It leaves the courts wide open to another challenge. If someone files a new lawsuit, I think there's a very good chance that down the line they might find it unconstitutional," said Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the conservative-oriented Heritage Foundation.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., one of only 33 lawmakers who opposed renewal of the law in 2006, said, "I'm disappointed that the justices laid out the case for why the law is unconstitutional and then stopped short of tossing it. I do feel optimistic, however, that the court's dim view ... means the law will not survive for the full length of its 25-year renewal."

The court's avoidance of the constitutional question explains the consensus among justices in the case rendered Monday, where they otherwise likely would have split along conservative-liberal lines.

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone among his colleagues, said he would have resolved the case and held that the provision, known as Section 5, is unconstitutional. "The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains," Thomas said.

Roberts himself noted that blacks and whites now register and turn out to vote in similar numbers and that "blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare."

He attributed a significant share of the progress to the law itself. "Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirement," Roberts said.

Still, the court did not decide that question in what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently described as "perhaps the most important case of the term."

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, opened the polls to millions of black Americans. In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress overwhelmingly renewed the part of the law which provided for the advance approval requirement for 25 years and President George W. Bush signed it.

The Austin utility district, backed by a conservative group opposed to the law, brought the court challenge. It said that either the district should be allowed to opt out or the entire provision should be declared unconstitutional.

Based on the tone of the questions when the case was argued in late April, many civil rights and election law experts predicted the Roberts-led court would indeed strike the measure down.

The court ruled instead on a provision of the law that allows a state or local government to seek to be free of the advance approval requirement.

The three-judge court in Washington, D.C., that originally decided the case said the utility district did not qualify as a local government that is eligible to bail out. The high court reversed that ruling Monday, saying "all political subdivisions" are eligible to file a bailout suit.

The Austin utility district is in the heart of Canyon Creek, an affluent suburb of about 3,500 residents that didn't break ground on its first house until the 1980s. About 80 percent of residents in Canyon Creek are white, according to the 2000 census.

As recently as 2002, voters in Canyon Creek used a neighbor's garage to cast their ballot in their utility board elections. The board wanted to change the polling location to a school, but first had to seek federal clearance.

The community got it, but Canyon Creek's board felt that needing approval from Washington was an unnecessary obstacle in a tiny neighborhood with no history of minority voter discrimination.

Man robs bank to go to jail.

Man robs bank to go to jail

An Ohio man who couldn't find work got himself arrested for bank robbery so he could go to jail until he was eligible to collect Social Security benefits.

Timothy Bowers, 62, told Common Pleas Judge Angela White he hasn't had steady work for almost three years and the kind of jobs available to him pay only minimum wage, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Appearing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in Columbus Thursday, Bowers pleaded guilty to walking into the Fifth Third Bank and handing a note to the teller announcing a robbery.

After the teller put four $20 bills and a dye pack in an envelope, Bowers walked over to the bank guard and surrendered.

The county prosecutor's office argued against locking Bowers up after a court-ordered psychological exam concluded he was competent.

The Dispatch report said White said, "I'm going to give you your birthday present," as she ordered a 3-year sentence for Bowers, who turns 63 at the end of the month.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Crime Does Not Pay.

The only difference between a gas station robber and an embezzler is a college education. The character is the same. More money has been stolen using a pencil than was ever taken with a gun.
(June 21, 2009)
2 Former Administrators at Tufts University Get Jail Time on Theft Charges.
Two former administrators of Tufts University have pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $1-million from the university’s Office of Student Activities, The Boston Globe reported, citing a statement from a state prosecutor.

Josephine Nealley, who was the office’s director from 1996 to 2007, was accused of stealing more than $370,000 and faced three counts of larceny. Raymond Rodriguez, who was the office’s budget and fiscal coordinator from 2001 to 2007, was accused of stealing more than $600,000 and faced two counts of larceny. The two were indicted last summer. According to the Globe, each was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by five years of probation, and ordered to pay full restitution.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Federal Judges Are Appointed For Life.

WASHINGTON –U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent sexually assaulted two of his female employees over a period of several years. Members of Congress are moving quickly to force him out of office so they can avoid paying his annual salary while he serves time in prison.

A task force formed by the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a meeting for 9 June 2009 to begin considering what articles of impeachment — essentially charges — they want to recommend against Judge Kent.

Judge Kent, the first sitting judge to face sex crime charges, is headed to federal prison in a week to serve a 33-month sentence for lying to prosecutors about sexually abusing two female employees. Both women told their stories to the task force last week, saying they were cornered and forced to engage in sexual acts against their will.

Judge Kent pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges last month. As part of the plea deal, he admitted he tried to force Cathy McBroom, his former case manager, into unwanted sex acts in 2003 and 2007, and did the same with Donna Wilkerson, his secretary, from 2004 through at least 2005.

Ms McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in public discussing the case. Ms Wilkerson knew her lawyer gave her name to reporters during Judge Kent's trial.

Judge Kent had hoped to retire on disability to continue collecting his $174,000 annual salary and benefits. But that request was rejected by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He told President Barack Obama in a letter that he would resign in June 2010.

Members of the House have balked at that offer, rejecting the notion that Judge Kent would be paid his federal salary for a year while he is behind bars.

Federal judges are appointed for life. Impeachment is the only way to remove them. In a letter to the task force, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Kent said if he is forced out, he would be penniless.

Should the task force recommend Judge Kent's impeachment to the full Judiciary Committee, it could meet and vote to send the charges to the House. The House then would vote whether to impeach Kent, which would trigger a trial in the Senate.

Judge Kent's attorney is Dick DeGuerin.

The House on Friday 19 June impeached Federal Judge Samuel Kent who is imprisoned for lying about sexual assaults of two women, in the first such vote since impeaching former President Bill Clinton a decade ago. The impeachment of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas sets up a trial in the Senate. Kent is the first federal judge impeached in 20 years.

The House approved four articles of impeachment against Kent accusing him of sexually assaulting two female employees and lying to judicial investigators and Justice Department officials. All four articles passed unanimously.

"The conduct at issue here is both shocking and shameful," Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the start of the debate.

Kent, 59, entered a federal prison in Massachusetts on Monday to serve a 33-month sentence. He pleaded guilty last month to lying to judicial investigators about sexual assaults of two female employees.

Kent is refusing to resign until next year so he can continue to draw his $174,000 a year salary. If he is convicted of the impeachment charges in the Senate, he will be forced off the bench.

When contacted for comment, Kent's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, cited an earlier statement in which he said Kent's troubles might be enough for impeachment in the House but would not produce conviction in the Senate.

Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said he was not unsympathetic to Kent, who has said he has suffered depression since his first wife's death and had problems with alcohol abuse. But Smith said Kent does not have the right to continue as a federal judge and collect his salary.

"It is now time for justice: justice for the American people who have been exploited by a judge who violated his oath of office," Smith said.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, sat in the chamber early in the debate. Hastings was acquitted of bribery charges as a federal judge, but later impeached by the House in 1988. The Senate convicted him on similar impeachment charges.

The Senate found Clinton not guilty on his impeachment charges.

As part of his plea bargain, Kent admitted that he tried to force Cathy McBroom, his former case manager, into unwanted sex acts in 2003 and 2007, and did the same with Donna Wilkerson, his secretary, from 2004 through at least 2005.

He must participate alcohol-abuse program while in prison. He also was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to the secretary and case manager whose complaints resulted in the first sex abuse case ever against a sitting federal judge.

Kent was nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush and has served since 1990.
26 June 2009. An imprisoned federal judge facing an impeachment trial in the Senate in a sexual-misconduct case says he will resign from the bench effective June 30.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent produced the resignation letter when he was served with a subpoena for his trial, Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, said yesterday. Kent's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, could not be reached for comment.

Kent, 60, last week began serving a 33-month sentence in a Massachusetts federal prison for lying to judicial investigators about sexually assaulting two women who worked for him. He was impeached by the House last Friday, and the Senate began work to bring him to trial.

Kent had previously said he would resign in June 2010. But several in Congress, angry that Kent would draw his $174,000 salary plus benefits while in prison, pushed for his impeachment.

Thurgood Marshall did more to improve the life of the damned, the dispossessed, and the downtroddened tha any other attorney in the 20th century. He fought for the underdog in American society as an attorney and as a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. As chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund for over 25 years, he fought Jim Crow segregation in the snake pits and hell holes of the solid South. He won 29 of 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court; and, he should have won all of them. In a perfect and just world, he would have. His record of successful cases before the high court stands today unparalleled in American judicial history. President Lyndon baines Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1967 where he served for 34 years. Once he was asked by a newspaper reporter when did he plan to retire. Justice Marshal's reply was "I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it; I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband ".
(Thurgood Marshall, Justice For All, R. Goldman and D. Gallen, 1992; p. 159)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chickasaw Indian Becomes Dean of New Mexico Law School.

A Lawyer Returns to the Birthplace of His Career

Kevin K. Washburn, 41, knows why he became a lawyer. During the summer of 1990, after graduating in economics from the University of Oklahoma, he attended a workshop of the University of New Mexico's American Indian Law Center, and it changed his life. "Suddenly I was told it was not only OK but wonderful to be an American Indian," he says. "That was liberating for me."

A member of the Chickasaw Nation, he grew up in small towns in what had earlier been the tribe's reservation. "I did well at school — my mother taught me the Chickasaw work ethic," he says. But rural Oklahoma, with its racial hostilities and its limitations for a young, imaginative man, "was a hard place to be young and American Indian."

Of his stay at the campus in Albuquerque, in a program that has long provided prospective law students with a "boot camp" that mimics the first year of law school, he says: "It was a magical summer. The instructors were very public-spirited, very committed to teaching, and very good at it. I gained my identity as a scholar from them."

On July 1, he will return to New Mexico's law school as a leading scholar and practitioner of American Indian law. And as its new dean.

Several search-committee members, and eventually the interim dean, Leo M. Romero, persuaded him to apply for the job. "I was not on the dean market," he says. "I've long appreciated being a professor, and being a dean is an unfathomable responsibility."

But benefits came to mind, too, particularly the opportunity to inspire in others the sense of purpose he drew from that 1990 summer program. He called many of New Mexico's law-faculty members — 34 full-timers including some former deans — and now can say: "I've long felt a debt to this school, and this job represents my very full and robust commitment to repaying it."

After that summer program, Mr. Washburn enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis's law school and then in his second year moved to Yale Law School, where he edited The Yale Journal on Regulation. A clerkship at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit followed. In 1994, an honors program took him to the Department of Justice in Washington, to litigate tribal natural-resource and environmental claims.

From 1997 until 2000, as a federal prosecutor in New Mexico, he worked on cases of violent crime in Indian country. That could be depressing, he says: "People do terrible things when they are without hope." But he relished some aspects of the job: "Bumping along in the desert was certainly great fun," he says of a typical workday. "I was never more interesting at cocktail parties."

In 2000, at only 32, he became general counsel to the National Indian Gaming Commission, an independent federal regulatory agency. But he had begun to think that, as several Yale classmates had become law professors, why couldn't he? He had by that time accumulated plenty of knowledge that would permit him to teach. So, in 2002 he took a position at the University of Minnesota's law school, and then spent the 2007-8 academic year at Harvard Law School as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Associate Professor of Law. Last August, he was recruited to the University of Arizona.

In books and articles on gaming and other issues in American Indian life, and in testimony before Congress, he has argued that federal authorities have a "cavalry effect" on prosecutions on reservations: When the Federal Bureau of Investigation sends in agents, tribal members clam up, mindful of a long history of disruptive incursions. Why not defer to more effective tribal courts, he asks.

Although most tribes have court systems, federal law governs more than 300 types of crime in Indian country. So, Mr. Washburn, who is a tribally appointed chief judge of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe Court of Appeals of Michigan — his third tribal judgeship — has lobbied hard for new legislation. This year, for the second time, Sen. Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, has introduced the Tribal Law and Order Act, which would carry out changes like the ones Mr. Washburn has recommended.

His are not, certainly, the only ideas contained in the bill, which is expected to win approval this year. Yet Mr. Washburn can say: "It makes me feel like I've achieved some modicum of success in legal academe."

Soon he will be the first American Indian head of New Mexico's School of Law, which has a long tradition of educating Indian lawyers. And he is receiving a warm welcome. The interim dean, Mr. Romero, says Mr. Washburn's presence at the school guarantees the healthy continuation of American Indian-law activities. And while Mr. Washburn says he is not sure he has "any special gifts for deaning," Mr. Romero marks that up to humility: "He brings a lot. His scholarship has got really national attention. He's well regarded as an excellent legal thinker."