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Callout for Comments: ND Judges Trying to End Program Allowing Out-of-State Lawyers to Represent

Water Protectors

The judges from the South Central Judicial District of North Dakota have petitioned the Supreme Court of North Dakota to revoke the Pro Hac program that allows out of state attorneys to represent Water Protectors. This is a huge problem for Water Protectors.

The North Dakota Supreme court is allowing people to comment on the proposal until October 2nd at 4 p.m. by emailing the clerk Penny Miller at We would love Water Protectors to write to Penny Miller with a comment opposing revoking this program with their unique perspective.

We have identified some major points to make in a comment but feel free to personalize your message based on your experience(s):

  • As of September 11, 2017, there were still 159 cases without representation or any appointed counsel so there is still a need for more attorneys.

  • Saves taxpayer money by not having to hire local indigent defense

  • Issues around representing indigenous people – this is a specialized area of law, and requires special focus, expertise, cultural awareness, and practice that people from other places have experience in.

  • The mass arrest and charging issues in these cases are unlike anything local appointed counsel has seen. This has never happened to Morton County before.

  • The Supreme Court originally granted the initial petition in January 2017 fundamentally to ensure adequate access to counsel and to be fair to defendants in these proceedings. These concerns and issues are magnified for indigent and indigenous or racial minority persons, of which, virtually every defendant is one of the two. These concerns still exist. The need for counsel, guaranteed under the 14th amendment, is not fulfilled by the ND Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents.

WPLC Criminal Defense Attorney:

“There is no need to proactively set firm and arbitrary deadlines by which these rules and this program will end. These relaxed rules allow for Pro Hac Vice attorneys only to represent Water Protectors on DAPL-related charges. When all the DAPL cases have representation and are resolved, these temporary rules will be moot and go away on their own accord and due to a true lack of need at that point. This raises the suspicion that instead this attempt to cut off admission and representation sooner is to alleviate their frustration with the extra burden on the courts and its staff that this unusual boost and block of cases has had, particularly if these cases will not quickly and easily settle but if each will be given a full defense and trial. These judge petitioners, besides Gail Hagerty, remain unknown, and we also find it problematic that this is an indication of bias against defendants in these cases and that these same judges are likely assigned some of the DAPL cases.”

–Thank you for your support!



Andrea Carter

Defense Counsel Coordinator

Water Protector Legal Collective

(701) 566-9108 WPLC office


Elana Gold

Legal Organizer, Water Protector Legal Collective

J.D. 2017 CUNY Law



Jessica Beheler

Media Coordinator

Water Protector Legal Collective


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