Notable Scholars Join UA Law Faculty

Notable Scholars Join UA Law Faculty

By La Monica Everett-HaynesUniversity Communications
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Kevin K. Washburn
Kevin K. Washburn
Melissa L. Tatum
Melissa L. Tatum

Kevin K. Washburn and Melissa L. Tatum, two prominent American Indian law researchers and professors, are joining The University of Arizona faculty beginning this fall.

Washburn, the outgoing Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, will join the James E. Rogers College of Law during the fall semester. Tatum, a University of Tulsa professor and co-director of the Native American Law Center, will begin her post at the UA college in January.

Both will join the college’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy, or IPLP, program and are expected to enhance the college’s already strong research, training and advocacy work in the area of American Indian law.

“To attract both Kevin Washburn and Melissa Tatum speaks volumes about the strength and reputation of our program,” said Robert A. Williams, the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program director.

“They have both established themselves at the forefront of the next wave of scholarship, taking Indian law in different and exciting directions,” Williams added, “and they exemplify IPLP’s mission of putting theory into practice.”

Yale Law School-educated Washburn is a former assistant U.S. Attorney and trial attorney for the Department of Justice who has testified before several Congressional panels, has published widely and is an expert in the areas of gaming, American Indian and criminal law.

“Gaming is a booming industry, and it is booming particularly in Arizona,” Washburn said, adding that experts and policymakers are debating the question of increased regulation in the industry. “It’s a very important topic, and lawyers tend to be very involved.”

Washburn, a University of Minnesota Law School professor, also served as general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission. At the UA, he will be the Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law.

He also served as a principal investigator on a two-year National Institute of Justice grant totaling nearly $1.5 million. The grant was awarded in 2006 to examine the criminal justice system on reservations and involved interviews with more than 400 people.

“Professor Washburn’s extensive work in American Indian law and gaming law will consolidate strengths in our Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program, which is known worldwide,” said Toni Massaro, the law school’s dean, “and his expertise in criminal law will advance our multidisciplinary Program in Criminal Law and Policy.”

Washburn said universities across the nation are focusing more on American Indian issues, but not quite like the UA, which is why he wanted to be part of the University’s college of law.

“The University is leading in this area. The depth of American Indian issues in the law school is just incredible,” he said.

Tatum shares a similar sentiment.

The first paper Tatum ever published as a law student was a book review of Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy, or IPLP, director Robert A Williams’ “The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest,” which was published in 1990.

Now, Tatum will serve as a research professor and associate director of the very program Williams leads, which “kind of brings my career full circle,” she said.

Williams said Tatum’s hire is “profoundly important step in taking the IPLP program to the next level.”

Williams also noted: “We already have a mature program with a well-established global reputation in education, research and advocacy. Attracting a faculty member with Professor Tatum’s experience and skills in all three of these areas is a testament to our strength, and an indication of how the IPLP program will continue to grow.”

Tatum, who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 1992, has taught at the University of Tulsa for more than a decade. She also served as a judge for the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals from 1999 to 2006 and is a specialist in federal Indian law, conflicts of law, jurisdiction and other areas.

She also served as a federal judicial clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Tatum has published on a wide range of topics, including cultural property protection, tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction, and cross-jurisdictional enforcement of protection orders. She is a consultant for the Rules Harmonization Project, an initiative by the Navajo Nation to align the rules of the court with tribal common law.

At the UA, Tatum will teach two Indian law courses while serving as the associate director of the college’s IPLP Program, focusing on administering the program’s two post-graduate programs in indigenous law – the L.L.M., or master’s of law, and the S.J.D., the doctorate.

“Frankly, this is my dream job,” Tatum said, adding that the UA College of Law carries extra bonus points because of its strong reputation, solid faculty, devotion to American Indian issues and its S.D.J. program, which is the only such program in the nation.

“I get to balance all aspects of teaching and learning,” she said. “There is no other place in the country for me.”

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