2009 AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, Leroy LaPlante, Jr.
Leroy LaPlante, Jr.
Name of Host Organization: Access to Justice, Inc.
City, State: Rapid City, South Dakota
Issue area: Family Law, Domestic Violence,Native American Rights
My project has three objectives: recruitment of pro bono attorneys, coordination of pro bono projects at the University of South Dakota School of Law and provision of direct legal services. We currently have 10 projects at the law school covering the following areas of law; human rights, family law, Indian law, tax, public defense, veterans rights, elder law, environmental law and domestic violence. My caseload consists primarily of family law cases.
I continue to be inspired by my people on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Their persistence despite a long history of injustice is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Also, my daughter is a daily inspiration to me and keeps me grounded in what really matters in life.
Eagle Butte, South Dakota
Making the connection:
After completing my first summer internship, I was invited to attend a meeting sponsored by the Public Interest Law Group at the University of South Dakota. Until then, I didn’t know what public interest law meant or that I had already practiced it that summer. I learned that there was a whole different post-graduate path available and that there was a group of students and law practitioners who shared my values and aspirations.
Surviving law school:
I was involved in the Native American Law Students Association at my law school all three years. I served as President during my second year and led my colleagues to National Chapter of the Year honors and coordinated the Indian Estate Planning pro bono project. I also did public interest work for my internships. I served two summers with the Dakota Plains Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. The experience gave relevance to my studies.
Speaking of Indians, by Ella Deloria. A rare account of pre-reservation American Indian culture that was actually written by an American Indian. Broken Landscape, by Frank Pommersheim. I have to give props to my friend and advisor. He is becoming a true Eyapaha (camp crier) for Indian Country.
ESPN.com - I'm a big sports fan.
Powwows.com - Keeps me informed on what's happening on "the trail."