Recently the Washington Post published a long article on the issues in the Office of Solicitor General regarding their lack of diversity in hiring. This conversation is a constant one in federal Indian law circles (as in, we really do talk about this ALL THE TIME), but the article failed to mention that OSG is all up in the Indian law cases but has no Native lawyers now or ever. Today, the Post published a letter to the editor in response stating this far more eloquently: Justice For and By Native Americans:
The July 25 front-page article “A defense of diversity fell to an office that lacks it” brought much-needed attention to the lack of diversity at the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The article failed to mention, however, the OSG’s lack of Native American lawyers. Both omissions of Native Americans — from the article and from the OSG — merit correction.
Erasures such as these are a persistent problem for Native Americans; the resulting harm is particularly acute here. The United States owes treaty-based, trust obligations to Indian tribes, and federal law governs life in Indian country to a degree matched in few other areas. Federal law determines the bounds of tribal sovereignty, the scope of treaty rights and the rules that apply to individual tribal members in spheres such as child welfare, taxation and criminal law.
In just its past five terms, the Supreme Court decided more than 10 cases involving Indian tribes. The OSG — which is charged with fulfilling the United States’ trust obligations at the Supreme Court — plays an outsize role in these cases. The United States is often a party, and even when it is not, the OSG typically participates at oral argument. Indeed, the OSG presented oral argument in every Indian law case from the past five terms. Yet despite the OSG’s central role, the OSG has never hired a Native American lawyer, per University of Michigan professor Matthew L.M. Fletcher.
As The Post article noted, many maintain that the OSG “has a special responsibility to reflect the country it serves.” That moral imperative is especially pronounced in the case of Native Americans.