Leeds to teach at Arizona State Law

08/30/2019 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Stacy Leeds, center, is this year’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor at Arizona State University. The Cherokee Nation citizen is currently the University of Arkansas vice chancellor for economic development. COURTESY
PHOENIX – The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is honored to welcome Stacy Leeds as the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor.

Leeds, Cherokee Nation citizen, carved her place in history when she was named the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2011, becoming the first Native American woman to be appointed to such a position. Currently, she is the vice chancellor for economic development, dean emeritus and a professor at the University of Arkansas, and will teach federal Indian law this fall as part of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program.

“We are very honored to have Vice Chancellor Stacy Leeds as the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor,” said Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, professor and faculty director for ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program and director of the Indian Legal Clinic. “We believe she will be a great addition to our team this fall and a wonderful resource for our students. From the Indian Child Welfare Act to opioid litigation to tribal agriculture, she has combined scholarship and practice to advance and defend Indian rights.”

Leeds has a passion and dedication to Indian law, and a determination to help inform Indian law policy and the next generation of lawyers.

However, she did not always know this would be her path. As a child she grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and went on to become an all-state basketball player for Muskogee High School. She then enrolled at Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree while also participating as a student athlete playing basketball and tennis.

“I knew I wanted to go to law school when a lightbulb moment occurred during my junior year of my undergraduate studies,” Leeds said. “I took a grad school course in social work where the final project involved mock testimony before Congress on Indian child welfare issues. I was hooked by the process, the research and the oral advocacy.”

She obtained two law degrees – a master’s degree a law from the University of Wisconsin and a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa – and later obtained a master’s degree in business administration while a professor at the University of Kansas.

She divides her time between downtown Fayetteville near the Arkansas campus and Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the CN. With her visiting professorship at ASU Law, she will travel to its downtown Phoenix campus throughout the fall semester.

“ASU Law is at the top of the Indian law field, and it’s an honor to be a part of the program. It is also very meaningful that the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community continues to invest in law students by providing new opportunities and access to new mentors,” Leeds said.

ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program was established in 1988 and, through its connections to each of Arizona’s federally recognized 22 tribes, is home to one of the highest concentrations of Native American students and Indian law students in the nation. Leeds joins a team of other nationally recognized faculty who are leading scholars in their fields.

Leeds delivered the keynote at ASU Law’s William C. Canby Jr. Lecture Series in 2013, and served as a championship-round judge at the National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court Competition when ASU Law hosted the event in 2018.

“I look forward to getting to know the students and actively participating in their professional development,” Leeds said. “I know that I will also enjoy the full scale of the Indian Law program, which will include interaction with tribes and the Indian law bar in the region.”

Leeds has also made a significant impact in the Native legal community. Previously, she has served as a justice for the CN’s Supreme Court as the first woman and youngest person to be appointed. Leeds also served as a judge for six other Native nations, as a member of the board of directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, and as chair of the American Bar Association Judicial Division’s Tribal Courts Council.


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