Law schools justifiably seek to enroll a diverse student body in order to enrich the academic experience and environment, and to provide attorneys who will serve all segments of our society. American law schools enjoy the constitutional right to maintain such diversity. Indeed, accreditation standards promulgated by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) require it. The Association of American Law Schools carries a similar mandate. In seeking to create a diverse student body, law schools offer applicants the opportunity to identify their backgrounds. There generally is no “diversity police” checking on the accuracy of the self-identification as a member of a minority group by a law school applicant. However, there is one glaring exception. That involves Native Americans. Law schools generally want to pursue the worthy and lawful goal of ensuring that Indians have an opportunity for a legal education. Yet, due to a serious misunderstanding among American law schools, Genízaros and other non-tribal affiliated Indians are often precluded from pursuing this goal because they cannot emphasize their indigenous backgrounds. In fact, as shown below, these applicants could be viewed as fraudulent or dishonest in the process. It is more than likely that law schools are simply overlooking a second, critical part of the relevant admissions policy. This issue is rooted in the 2011 American Bar Association policy which reads as follows: “[T]he American Bar Association urges the Law School Admissions Council and ABA- approved law schools to require additional information from individuals who indicate on their applications for testing or admission that they are Native American, including Tribal citizenship, Tribal affiliation or enrollment number, and/or a ‘heritage statement.’” In this article, we will first examine how the ABA policy came to be and how it is being misapplied. Second, we will briefly consider who can document tribal affiliation, thus satisfying the first part of the ABA test. Third, we will explore the Genízaro reality, demonstrating the heritage that should satisfy the second part of the ABA Resolution. Finally, we will explain how the misapplication of this ABA policy is unintentionally perpetuating a badge of servitude upon the Genízaro people.
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Bill Piatt, Moises Gonzales & Katja Wolf,
Law Schools Harm Genízaros and other Indigenous People by Misunderstanding ABA Policy,
N.M. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmlr/vol49/iss2/4