Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn?

Sunday, August 12, 2012
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn?
On August 2, 2012, President Barack Obama nominated a law professor with experience in American Indian law and gambling law to succeed Larry EchoHawk as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. A member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kevin K. Washburn has been Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque since June 2009. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Born in 1967 in Southeastern Oklahoma, Washburn earned a BA in Economics at the University of Oklahoma in 1989, attended law school at the Washington University Law School in St. Louis for one year, before transferring to Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation and earned his JD in 1993. Washburn actually began his legal education at the University of New Mexico School of Law as a student at the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-law Summer Institute.
Pursuing a career in public service after graduating law school, Washburn served as a judicial law clerk for Judge William C. Canby, Jr., an expert in American Indian law, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, Arizona, from August 1993 to July 1994. Washburn then relocated to Washington D.C., to serve as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division from 1994 to 1997. At the DOJ, Washburn successfully argued the case of Montana v. EPA, in which the Ninth Circuit upheld an Environmental Protection Agency decision to recognize the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes as a state for purposes of setting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Changing jobs at the DOJ, Washburn served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the Violent Crimes Section from 1997 to 2000. During this time, Washburn also taught at UNM as an adjunct professor. Washburn’s first official foray into practicing American Indian law came when he returned to Washington to serve as general counsel at the National Indian Gaming Commission from January 2000 to July 2002.
Washburn began his academic career as an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, where he taught from 2002 to 2008, although he was resident in Massachusetts for the 2007–2008 academic year as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He was Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 2008 to 2009, where he taught contracts, criminal law, and gambling law.
Among his many academic publications, Washburn has listed the following as representative: The Legacy of Bryan v. Itasca County: How an Erroneous $147 County Tax Notice Helped Bring Tribes $200 Billion in Indian Gaming Revenue (2008); Restoring the Grand Jury (2008); American Indians, Crime, and the Law (2006); and Federal Criminal Law and Tribal Self-Determination (2006). He has served as a trustee on the Law School Admission Council from 2006 to present; as a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Native American Sentencing Issues of the United States Sentencing Commission from 2002 to 2004; and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project of Minnesota from 2002 to 2003.
Washburn is married to Elizabeth “Libby” Rodke Washburn, who currently serves as the state director for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), and they have two children. A Democrat, Washburn has contributed $3,050 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $525 to ActBlue in 2009, $525 to Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) in 2009, and $2,000 to John Kelly’s unsuccessful campaign for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2000. Libby Washburn has contributed $1,250: $250 to Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin), who was U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District from 1969 until 2011, in 2009, and $1,000 to Sen. Bennett in 2010.
-Matt Bewig
Biography (University of New Mexico School of Law)



Diane Brenden 8 years ago
I was appalled to see the SUNDAY MORNING report Aug 9th regarding the Indians living without running water in Arizona and new Mexico - one very old woman had never had running water. I see there is a Navajo Clean Water Project that appears to be donation based - what is the world is the function of the Bureau of Indian Affairs if this situation has been allowed to carry on through countless generations? I haven't been able to stop thinking about this all day - it's so upsetting. Surely providing water to these native Americans should be a top priority and not have to depend on donations. I really look forward to hearing from someone about this severe problem. Aloha and Mahalo, Diane Brenden
Scotti Oliver 11 years ago
I heard a program on NPR tonight about: Loophole Lets Toxic Oil Water Flow Over Indian Land in Wyoming. I was aghast that this matter was not dealt with properly by EPA (who has withheld documents from the reporter covering this story)and that the law governing this issue has loopholes that allow oil companies to dump toxins into drinking water. I thought you would want to know about my concern. I have contacted my Senator regarding this matter. Respectfully, Ms. Scotti Oliver P.O. Box 1915 Easton, MD 21601

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