United States: Former Procopio Native American Interns Leading, And Making A Difference

Last Updated: November 4 2016
Article by Theodore J. Griswold

As we are preparing to review a new set of Procopio Native American Internship applications for the summer of 2017, we thought that it would be a good time to review and applaud the accomplishments of our past interns.  Congratulations to all.  We look forward to continue working with you as colleagues in your professional careers!  For students interested in joining this great network of tomorrow's Native American legal leaders, applications are open through October 28, 2016 (see here).

Eric Abeita (2014), from Isleta Pueblo, is a member of the New Mexico Bar and holds the position of General Counsel for the Pueblo of Pojoaque in Santa Fe New Mexico.  Eric is a 2015 graduate of University of New Mexico College of Law School, where he was the Managing Editor for the Tribal Law Journal and gathered valuable legal clinic experience with the Southwest Indian Law Clinic.

Nichole (Nikke) Alex (2015) is a member of the Navajo Nation and graduated from the University of New Mexico College of Law.  In her last year of law school, Nikke was a judicial extern with the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court where she assisted with developing a Juvenile Detention Alternative Program and a Peacemaking Program to promote a non-adversarial forum for resolving disputes where Pueblo tradition and culture are utilized to promote healing.  In May 2016, she was able to meet with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor on behalf of the Tribal Court, as part of Justice Sotomayor's outreach to learn more about the difficult issues faced by Indian Country.  Additionally, during her law school career, Nikke investigated the linkage between mineral extraction and violence against Native women and has worked with tribes to implement safeguards to protect Native women and children.  Recently, Nikke joined the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.  Nikke works with the Natural Resources Unit where she will focus on uranium related matters including former mine site cleanups, former mill site cleanups and remediation.

Fernando Anzaldua (2012) is a citizen of the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Fernando is a federal attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, where he has experienced significant success in federal court, administrative hearings, and bankruptcy court. He has successfully first-chaired a number of trials on behalf of individual employees, unions, and employers. He is a 2013 graduate of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he also earned an Indian Legal Certificate. He also sits on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Hispanic Bar Association (Los Abogados).

Kele Bigknife (2016)  is a third year law student at the University of Michigan Law School. A native San Diegan, he is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Mr. Bigknife is a member of the Editorial Board for the Michigan Business and Entrepreneurial Law Review. He previously worked at a Southern California law firm where he gained litigation experience and assisted in drafting depublication requests to the California Supreme Court in issues regarding tribal sovereignty. Mr. Bigknife is currently a student attorney for the Michigan Veterans Legal Clinic, representing veterans and their immediate families in civil legal matters.

Stephanie Conduff (2013) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, Oklahoma, District Court of The Chickasaw Nation, The Supreme Court of Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation and Chickasaw Nation.  She lives and works in her community in Oklahoma as an attorney, business owner of Leche Lounge and training Native entrepreneurs on best practices for profitability through sustainable development. Stephanie currently works as Director of Special Projects and Legal Counsel for Onefire Holding Company which a diversification venture capital firm of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She launched Leche Lounge, a manufacturing company for portable lactation suites – or Mother's Rooms – for use in airports, the workplace, stadiums and military bases worldwide.  She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.  Stephanie served as a judicial clerk for the late Honorable Chief Justice Barbara Smith of the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court and is certified to assist tribal courts as a Peacemaker.  Stephanie was with Procopio for three years first as a summer intern, then as a law clerk and worked full-time for the firm as an Associate until 2016.

Trinidad Contreras (2011) is a citizen of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and is a descendant of the Pala Band of Mission Indians.  He is a member of the Alaska Bar and currently Assistant Municipal Attorney for the City and Borough of Juneau.  His practice is primarily in civil law but occasionally works on criminal matters.  He is the 2016-2017 Secretary for the Juneau Bar Association. He is married to Madeline Soboleff Levy, general counsel for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska.  Together, they are the proud parents of Sofia, age 6, and Guillermo "Memo," 3 months.

Anna Hohag (2015) is a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and born and raised in the Eastern Sierras in Bishop, California.  She is in her third and final year of law school at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, where she serves as the President of the UA Native American Law Students Association.  She also serves as the Area 1 Representative (CA, NV, HI, AZ) for the National Native American Law Students Association and is a Board Member on the California Indian Law Association. This past year, Anna was selected to be a delegate speaker at the One Young World Environmental Summit, where she was introduced by Alejandro Toledo, the first indigenous president of Peru in over 500 years.  At this summit, she was given the opportunity to tell the story of her people, the Owens Valley Paiute, and the negative environmental and cultural effects of the Owens Valley water diversion through the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  After graduating in Spring 2017, Anna plans to take the California bar exam and find work advocating for tribal communities in California.

Kelsey Leonard (2015) is a citizen of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and received her law degree at Dusquene University Law School.  Last year she was named the prestigious Philomathia Trillium Scholar by McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), where she studied climate change's impact on Native Communities, with a focus on water resource management.  Kelsey was previously the Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body for the National Ocean Council charged with guiding the protection, maintenance, and restoration of America's oceans and coasts.

Christopher Scott (2014) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law (2015), where he was the Note and Comment Editor for the American Indian Law Review.  A member of the Texas Bar, Christopher is currently working as Counsel for Governmental Affairs at Insperity in Houston Texas.  Previously, Christopher was an associate with Ernst & Young in Dallas, Texas, working in labor/employment law in their People Advisory Services Department.

Jaclyn Simi (2012) is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.  She graduated with honors from Notre Dame de Namur University and received her law degree from California Western Law School (2012), where she was president of the Native American Law Students Association.  Ms. Simi is currently an associate with the San Diego office of Ogletree Deakins, practicing employment litigation and counseling with an emphasis on sports law.  Ms. Simi has been named a San Diego Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2016 and 2017 and to San Diego Business Journal's Best of the Bar list (2106).   She is an active member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Heather Torres (2016) is a third year law student at UCLA School of Law.  Ms. Torres is a citizen of the Pueblo of San Ildefonso and Navajo Nation descendant. She worked on Capitol Hill as a research assistant for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs under Chairman, Senator John Barrasso (WY) while joining a national network of Udall Scholars. Ms. Torres externed with the Children's Law Center, Los Angeles in the Indian Child Welfare Court.  She is also Executive Editor of the Indigenous Peoples' Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance and Senior Editor for the Chicano/Latino Law Review.  Ms. Torres has a Masters in Collaborative Educational Leadership.  She also graduated Cum Laude from UCLA in English and American Indian Studies.  This year she will serve as the Alumni Chair for NALSA at UCLA, volunteer with El Centro Legal: Education Rights and Teen Court Clinics, and teach law-related topics to local high school students in her spring semester.

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