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Faculty op-ed says high court denies rights of Natives

June 27, 2016 - Tamara Williams

Professor Barbara Creel
Professor Barbara Creel and John LeVelle

On June 26, 2016, the Albuquerque Journal published an op-ed written by Professor Barbara L. Creel and Professor John P.  LaVelle on the Supreme Court's recent decision in United States v. Bryant.  Both are faculty members in the law school’s Law and Indigenous Peoples Program.

The first paragraph of “High court denies rights of Natives” notes that June 13 is a milestone in constitutional law because "Miranda rights" went into effect on that date in 1966.

The article states, “Thus, it is the height of irony that on the 50th anniversary of Miranda, the Supreme Court chose to issue a decision that guarantees fast-track prosecution of American Indians in federal court by denying them basic protections.”

The article describes how the nation’s highest court condones the use of prior “uncounseled” tribal court convictions to prosecute Indians in federal court.

Creel and LaVelle wrote an Amicus Brief for the case, in which they argue that such federal prosecutions violate the constitutional and civil rights of Native American people. The brief and the ramifications of the case have been reported on widely (see “Amicus brief by Prof. Barbara Creel and John LaVelle receives national attention”).

Their op-ed concludes:

  • The Bryant decision is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It pretends to respect tribal sovereignty and protect Indian women, but it does neither.
  • Instead, it joins the long list of Supreme Court decisions that expose Indians to the federal government’s intrusive power over Native people’s lives.
  • June 13 may have been a day to celebrate your Miranda rights. But for American Indians, it will now be a day to mourn the tragic loss of the most basic constitutional protection against unjust prosecution by the federal government.

Prior to the court’s decision

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision on the case, Creel and LaVelle’s views were published in the media.

LaVelle wrote a guest column on the Bryant case for the Albuquerque Journal that was published on February 10. See "Uncounseled" convictions a threat to Indians.”

On May 6, 2016, KOB reporter Erica Zucco interviewed Creel about the issues in United States v. Bryant. See the interview here: http://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/federal-case-united-state-v-bryant-native-americans-law-legal-system/4129946/?cat=516#.V3GTuKKgVEq

On May 18, 2016, LaVelle explained the issues surrounding the case in an interview with Tom Trowbridge of Dateline New Mexico. Read more here: http://lawschool.unm.edu/news/2016/05/dateline-new-mexico-interviews-professor-lavelle-about-supreme-court-case.php