New Pascua Yaqui Tribe Partnership Appoints Diamond as Special Prosecutor, Allows Clinic Students to Argue in Court

Justin Boro

University of Arizona Law Professor of Practice and Tribal Justice Clinic Director James Diamond has been appointed as a special prosecutor in the Pascua Yaqui Tribe court system, and clinic students will soon have the opportunity to appear in tribal court and argue cases.

The Tribal Justice Clinic is a cornerstone of the college's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program clinical work.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Office of The Prosecutor will assign Diamond as a special prosecutor in cases where the office has a conflict of interest. Starting in fall 2017, Tribal Justice Clinic students who pass the tribal court bar exam will appear in tribal court under Diamond’s supervision.

The new arrangement will allow students to gain vital experience in trial advocacy analyzing cases, honing their legal writing skills, preparing and examining witnesses, filing court motions, and practicing oral argument. The Tribal Council is also considering a student practice rule that would allow clinic students to appear in tribal court under Diamond’s supervision without passing the tribal court bar exam.

"IPLP has a long history of collaboration with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe," Diamond says. "They are innovators in proactively using law to protect their people. Students will learn how to investigate, prepare, and file cases in tribal court and gain invaluable practical experience, something that cannot be replicated by teaching solely in a classroom setting." ​

The clinic already has a docket of three cases to work on for the fall 2017 semester. In May, Diamond and clinic student Pete Sabori (pictured at right at the Tohono O'odham Nation Tribal Court) appeared in the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Court in the case of Pascua Yaqui Tribe vs. Gabriel Valenzuela. The appearance before the chief judge was for the defendant’s initial appearance.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from Chief Prosecutor Oscar 'OJ' Flores (’10) and everyone at the prosecutor's office of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe," says Sabori. "Their office is leading the effort in special domestic violence jurisdiction and inspiring positive change throughout Indian Country. To be a small part of such meaningful work has been one of the best experiences of my law school education." 

Expanding an Already Active Clinic

The Pascua Yaqui Special Prosecutor cases are just one aspect of the legal work being performed by the Tribal Justice Clinic for tribes across the country. Earlier this year students drafted and submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Aguayo v. Jewell. The brief was on behalf of 63 tribal members who were disenrolled after the tribe redefined the amount of Indian blood required for membership.

Clinic students worked on recent cases and projects ranging from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), tribal gaming, disenrollment, and criminal and civil litigation. Students also engaged in legal research and advocacy work on timely topics facing indigenous peoples across the United States. During the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters, clinic students:

  • Drafted model jury instructions for a local tribe now applying VAWA criminal jurisdiction
  • Developed a subject matter index for all trial and appellate court decisions for a local tribal court
  • Prepared materials to assist a tribal prosecutor’s office in preparing a template for victim impact statements and a survey to victims on how they feel they were treated by the court
  • Provided legal research for an Arizona tribe filing a brief in a far-reaching challenge to ICWA
  • Drafted a model code of ethics for attorneys and advocates appearing in Arizona tribal courts
  • Provided legal research for a local tribe now applying VAWA criminal jurisdiction about how to manage confidential criminal records