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WPLC Wins Change in Rules For Out of State Attorneys to Defend Water Protectors


Contact: Bill Tilton, Lead Attorney: (612) 867-7473, Sandra Freeman, WPLC Criminal Defense Case Coordinator: (701) 805-1576, Sarah Hogarth, WPLC Communications Coordinator: (212) 260-4263,

WPLC Wins Change in Rules For Out of State Attorneys to Defend Water Protectors

Court Creates New Regulations for NoDAPL Criminal Cases

BISMARCK, ND: Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) applauds the ND Supreme Court’s ruling today in our Petition to Permit Temporary Provision of Legal Services by Qualified Attorneys From Outside North Dakota.

The request filed on December 14, 2016 sought to relax the rules governing pro hac vice admission for out of state attorneys in order to meet the urgent need for quality criminal defense lawyers to represent the over 600 Water Protectors who have been arrested since August.

Today the Court granted our request in significant part, allowing a “streamlining of our procedures for temporary admission of lawyers to provide pro bono services” including excusing the requirement that a North Dakota associate lawyer appear in-person and remain in court for all proceedings, and waiving the fee for pro hac vice applications from out of state attorneys wishing to provide criminal defense services to Water Protectors.

The court acknowledged “the potential for delay or inconvenience for litigants due to the relatively large number of arrests and finite resources to handle the judicial proceedings related to those arrests” and granted the change in rules “due to the significant increased caseload of the South Central Judicial District as a result of criminal charges stemming from the pipeline protests.”

“This will be a game changer for our ability to defend Water Protectors moving forward,” said WPLC cooperating attorney Bill Tilton of St. Paul, MN who filed the Petition along with 9 other lawyers. “The Court showed courage in crafting a creative response to this very grave and difficult situation.”

A public comment period that ended December 30, 2016 generated over 16,000 comments, including a letter from over 175 law professors urging the Court to grant the Petition in order to protect the Constitutional rights to adequate and effective counsel in these cases.

The Water Protector Legal Collective has been providing legal representation and coordination for Water Protectors engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline including coordination among local and out of state attorneys.

Sandra Freeman, Criminal Defense Case Coordinator for Water Protector Legal Collective said, “We are pleased the Court has recognized the peril posed to the over 175 people who are still without lawyers.”


Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) provides on-the-ground legal representation and coordination at Standing Rock, North Dakota in partnership with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

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