Michael Olivas Walks On

I learned late last week as the second restatement symposium was wrapping up that Michael Olivas had died (see also Ediberto Román’s moving post). Without Michael, there would have been no Indian law restatement (or it would have looked a lot different).

In 2010, Michael reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to be a member of the American Law Institute. I had never met the man, but he wanted to enable junior scholars from underprivileged backgrounds to become a part of the ALI. Barely knowing what the ALI was, I agreed. Within the next couple years, Wenona Singel and I were spearheading a restatement project and dragging along people like Venus Prince and Keith Harper to help us.

Over the years, Michael continued to elevate my work. When he became President of the American Association of Law Schools, he asked me to join the empirical research committee.

Michael added me to his rock and roll posse, where he discussed rock music and the law amongst friends. His emails were always a welcome respite from work, though they were frighteningly incisive on the law. Another time, he hosted me and our son Owen in Santa Fe for dinner, remarking that he could tell Owen’s parents were both lawyers; as a small boy, he already knew how use lawyer words like “actually” and how to hedge his opinions.

In 2020, when the Indigenous Law and Policy Center won the M. Shanara Gilbert Human Rights Award from the Society of American Law Teachers, Michael gave us the award and spoke about the restatement project. He was far too kind, generous, and inspirational.

2020 SALT awards ceremony

Michael was such a good guy. It’s amazing how gracious and generous people can be. I’m glad I could get it together to wish him a good journey in time.