Our Legal Work
Protect the Sacred: Darrell House v. National Park Service et. al.
“We are honored to represent Darrell…his struggle… is that of all Indigenous people–to pray and protect the Sacred.” - Natali Segovia, WPLC Legal Director
On December 21, 2022, WPLC filed a civil complaint on behalf of Darrell House (Diné and Oneida) against the National Park Service (NPS) and other Defendants including the City of Albuquerque, U.S. Department of Interior, Secretary of Interior, NPS Director, and NPS Officers Graden and Wineland, for violation of his civil rights and constitutional rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and seeks judicial review of the NPS decision finding no wrongdoing by NPS Officers under the Administrative Procedures Act. WPLC is joined by past WPLC board member and legendary civil rights attorney, Jeffrey Haas, who represented Black Panther Fred Hampton, as co-counsel in representing Darrell.
Santa Fe Obelisk
For over fifty years, the obelisk that stood at the center of Santa Fe (Oga Po’geh) Plaza (located on ancestral lands of Tewa Pueblos), was the subject of considerable debate and dispute. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, 2020, and after the City of Santa Fe’s failure to remove the obelisk despite a June proclamation signaling a commitment to do so, the obelisk was toppled by over fifty protestors in a deeply divisive case. WPLC and WPLC cooperating attorneys Jeffrey Haas, Larry Kronen, and Sandra Freeman, have represented two Indigenous women out of the seven people that were charged in connection with this case. Their charges have since been dropped as a result of the completion of a Pre-prosecution Diversion Restorative Justice Agreement.
Civil Rights Litigation: Dundon v. Kirchmeier
“It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed,” Lederman said about the suit. “This must stop.”
Dundon v. Kirchmeier is a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit filed by nine named plaintiffs on behalf of hundreds of #NoDAPL water protectors who were injured by law enforcement on the night of November 20, 2016. At least 200 water protectors were injured and dozens hospitalized from Backwater Bridge in Standing Rock, ND off highway 1806. Water cannons were used in freezing weather conditions against water protectors, type of munition, armament, less-lethal weapon, and crowd-control devices. The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally set for construction in the Mandan-Bismarck area until the decision to build on the Standing Rock reservation and would pollute the Missouri River.
Line 3 Legal Defense with Civil Liberties Defense Center
Anishinaabe and Indigenous leaders have spearheaded a resistance against the construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline through sacred land and waters in northern Minnesota. Over 1,000 Water Protectors have been arrested. Nearly 200 Water Protectors do not have movement-aligned representation. CLDC, in partnership with Water Protector Legal Collective, hired legal fellow, Claire Glenn, to support Water Protectors fighting Line 3. Additionally, our Law Fellow, Summer Blaze Aubrey (Cherokee/Blackfeet), and Board Member, Pat Handlin, published “Stop Line 3: A Call to Clear Danger to Our Water, Climate, and Land in Minnesota” in the CUNY Law Review bringing scholarship to the Line 3 frontlines and calling on President Biden to #StopLine3.
Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden Amicus brief
A century later, the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to oppose the United States’ illegal occupation, through struggles for self-determination and resistance against settler-colonial oppression. The amicus brief filed by the Water Protector Legal Collective, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), focuses on the undisputed history of the Hawaiian Kingdom and application of international law, US Constitutional law and treaties between the sovereign States of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States.
United States v. Jessica Reznicek Amicus brief with National Lawyers Guild
In 2016, Jessica Reznicek took action to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by dismantling construction equipment and pipeline valves. In 2021, she was sentenced to 8 years in prison with a domestic terrorism enhancement. Under normal conditions, Jess would have been sentenced to 37 months, but the terrorism enhancement resulted in a sentence of 96 months. NLG and WPLC filed a joint amicus brief in support of Water Protector, Jessica Reznicek.
Support Jessica at supportjessicareznicek.com.
As communities continue to dismantle settler colonialism in sacred site areas, we understand there is a need for legal support. In addition, WPLC is able to provide support around petitions, public comment, and amicus brief filings.
Steven Donziger, the environmental and human rights lawyer who won a $9.5 billion settlement against Chevron over oil dumped in Indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest. The courts in Ecuador had found Chevron guilty of one of the worst environmental crimes in history—deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into Indigenous territories in the Amazon. Ordered by those courts to pay $9.5 billion, Chevron sold its assets and fled the country. By evading court judgments, Chevron has yet to pay even one penny to the 30,000 people it poisoned. WPLC serves on Steven's Appellate team.
Recordando los 43:
Ayotzinapa Freedom of Information Act Request
On the evening of September 26, 2014, 43 unarmed Indigenous students were forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, México. The exact details of their disappearance remain unclear but the events on this night resulted in 6 people dead and 25+ injured. WPLC and TONATIERRA submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the file the Biden Administration gave to Lopez Obrador containing information about the Ayotzinapa 43. For too long the parents, families, and international community, have been denied answers for this human rights violation. “Vivos los llevaron, vivos los queremos!”—They were taken alive, we want them back alive—continues to be the rallying cry of Ayotzinapa families. We will not forget.