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Francine Hatch, a 3L, has been appointed an associate justice on the Pueblo of Isleta Appellate Court. She joins UNM Law Professor Christine Zuni Cruz (`82) and William Johnson (`90) on the tribal court.
The appellate tribal court was established in 1999 and is continuing to develop rules of procedure and precedent through its decisions. Previously, the Isleta Tribal Council served as the tribe's appeals court. Johnson serves as chief justice and both he and Zuni Cruz have served since the court's inception.
'Having a functioning and independent tribal court system further promotes tribal self-government and I look forward to the many challenges this opportunity presents, especially in developing a body of law that reflects and respects the tradition, culture and needs of the people we serve," she says.
Hatch, a member of the Pueblo, grew up at Isleta and still lives there with her three children. Prior to law school, she was employed by the Isleta Casino for five years, managing all aspects of the casino operations. Working with tribal government and regulatory bodies, along with outside vendors, opened her eyes to the many challenges involved with economic development in Indian Country.
She often relied on lawyers to work out contracts and also noticed a gap in the perception and significance of sovereignty between tribal members and outsiders. In 2002, she returned to college at the University of Washington to finish up her undergraduate degree with the sole intention of attending law school. At UNM, she has diversified her studies in an effort to prepare for the wide range of legal issues tribes face, including classes in Indian and Business law. Following graduation, she hopes to work with tribes to explore, develop and expand business activity.
As a member of the Isleta Appellate Court, which she joined last fall, Hatch enjoys the challenge of balancing and applying traditional law to broader issues that come before it, many that reflect the pueblo's growing economic development interests.