Students in the Indian Law Clinic scored a resounding victory for their client in Spokane County Court.
“Indian Law Clinic students won a sizable civil judgment for a member of the Kalispel Tribe in a very contentious meretricious relationship case,” said Indian Law Clinic Director Jay Kanassatega.
The Kalispel Tribe contracts with the Indian Law Clinic to represent its members, Kanassatega explained.
In the absence of a common-law statute, Washington State courts have defined a meretricious relationship as “a stable, marital-like relationship where both parties cohabit with knowledge that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.”
In this case, the clinic’s client won a civil judgment of about $21,000.
“This is an amazing result in light of the fact that the court ordered the clinic to serve and file its trial brief on Friday and be trial-ready the following Monday,” Kanassatega said. “The students and the client – in a very concerted 96-hour effort – met every deadline and capably litigated the case for three days this week.”
Third-year student Kelsey Kittleson led the student team. It was the second case tried by clinic students in 2010. In the first, students defended two members of the Kalispel tribe against charges that they were making an effort to hunt on public lands without a state license.
Students Brandon Hanrahan and Peter Morowski took that case to trial in the Pend Oreille District County Court. When that court ruled against the defendant, student Ben Muse joined the team for the appeal to the Pend Oreille Superior Court.
The case is now before the Washington Court of Appeals Division 3 on a request for further review.
The Indian Law Clinic was established in fall 2009, and students have been actively litigating criminal and civil matters in state and tribal courts.
“Because the clinic is set up as a two-year experience,” Prof. Kanassatega said, “students come in at the beginning of the second year and stay until graduation. That allows us to pair 3Ls with 2Ls to work collaboratively in representing the interests of enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes.”
The Indian Law Clinic curriculum is designed to teach students to think like lawyers and to nurture the development of legal skills, Kanassatega said.
In other cases:
- Josh Dart, Jordan Frakes, John Morse and Courtney Baasch have represented or are scheduled to represent enrolled members of the Kalispel Tribe on criminal misdemeanor charges in Kalispel Tribal Court.
- Macon Benoit and Dominic Sagona drafted a proposed revision to the Kalispel Probate Code and drafted a second proposed law that would permit the Kalispel Tribe to take action under federal law to prevent further fractionation of trust lands possessed by members of the Kalispel Tribe on the Kalispel Indian Reservation.