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Law Students Win in Colorado Supreme Court

December 4, 2007

Today, the American Indian Law Clinic won its appeal in the Colorado Supreme Court in a case concerning a contested guardianship of an American Indian child, In the Matter of J.C.T. The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and upheld the rulings of the Denver Probate Court finding that it was an appropriate exercise of the Probate Court’s authority to consider the potential of a prospective guardian to be an adoptive parent. This decision will allow the boy to finally be adopted after being under various guardianships for 10 years. Ann Rhodes (’07) did an outstanding job of briefing the case on the boy’s tribe’s behalf. Professor Jill Tompkins argued the case. Maggie Wetmore (’05) was the student attorney who handled the complex trial-level work. Click here for the opinion.

Rhodes, along with co-counsel Celene Sheppard (’08) also successfully briefed and argued another appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals, In the Matter of N.B., involving a contested stepparent adoption case under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Click here for the opinion. Bonnie Sarkar (’06) and Lauren Templeton (’06) handled the three day trial before the District Court. A petition for certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court is pending however (the Clinic filed its opposition). Student attorneys Sylvia Curley (’08) and Jay Perry (’09) are working on the Supreme Court phase of the case currently.

A third ICWA case involving a young American Indian girl who is the subject of a dependency and neglect action has been appealed by the Clinic on behalf the girl’s tribe to the Colorado Court of Appeals and briefing is underway. Melissa Pingley ('08) is the student attorney handling the appeal.

Congratulations to the hard-working, smart, and dedicated clinic student attorneys of the Clinic. They are breaking new legal ground in Colorado and helping to protect the future of American Indian children, their families, and their tribes.