Fred Hart, Champion of the Pre-Law Summer Institute, Has Passed

From Helen Padilla, director of the American Indian Law Center:

To the Pre-Law Summer Institute Alumni, Professors, and Family,

The American Indian Law Center, Inc. regrets to inform our vast network of Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) alumni that UNM School of Law Professor Emeritus and former Dean Fred Hart passed away on June 6, 2021.  In 1967, Professor Fred Hart and Dean Tom Christopher created a Special Scholarship Program in Law for American Indians at UNM School of Law.  This Special Scholarship Program was the pre-cursor to the Pre-Law Summer Institute.  In the 53 years since that pivotal summer, the Pre-Law Summer Institute has remained faithful to its mission to  prepare American Indians and Alaska Natives for the rigors of law school by essentially replicating the first semester of law school in an intensive two-month program.  For decades, PLSI alumni have been leaders throughout Indian Country and the United States, including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the first indigenous member of a President’s cabinet in our country’s history.  Professor Hart probably never imagined that the summer program he helped to launch eventually would produce a Secretary of the Interior and countless other leaders.  Nonetheless, we at the American Indian Law Center remain ever grateful for and mindful of his role in creating the most successful pre-law prep program in the U.S. for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Fred Hart’s life teaches us all that the efforts of one person can make a difference that echoes far and wide across generations.  We offer our sincere condolences to Professor Hart’s family and friends.     

We interviewed Professor Hart in 2017 as part of PLSI’s 50th Anniversary celebration.  The PLSI History page link:

The video interview with Fred Hart is here: 

TCJ: “More than an Education: Three Tribal College Graduates Blaze Paths to Law School”

Like TCUs, PLSI is affected by education policy because it too depends on federal funding for a portion of its operating budget. Both TCUs and PLSI have continued to operate for more than 50 years, opening transformative doors for Native students. Felisha Adams, Amber Morningstar Byars, and Mariah Black Bird are on their way to becoming Native American lawyers, and all three have benefited from a tribal college education and PLSI.

Article here.

ICT Profile on PLSI ’05 Alum Matt Campbell

Here is “Matt Campbell Works the Dream Job at NARF.”

An excerot:

In 2005, he received a flyer for the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offered at the American Indian Law Center (AILC) in Albuquerque. He called the AILC yet was told the deadline had passed. “They asked me to send my application anyway, and I got in,” he said.

Campbell describes the two-month program, which replicates the first year of law school, as “intense,” and it attracts recruiters from law schools all over the country. Not only did he do well, but he was also wooed by recruiters from three different law schools. Campbell ended up enrolling at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe. In addition to his J.D., obtained in spring 2008, he holds an Indian Legal Certificate, with an environmental emphasis.

Continue reading


Here is the American Indian Law Center’s Press Release.

An excerpt:

The Women’s Law Caucus (WLC) at the University of New Mexico School of Law announced that Heidi Nesbitt, the Director of the Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) and Assistant Director of the American Indian Law Center, Inc. (AILC), has been named a recipient of the 2015 Justice Mary Walters Award. The WLC presents the annual award to outstanding women in the New Mexico legal community in honor of former Justice Mary Walters, who was the first woman appointed to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Recipients of the award demonstrate courage, strong ethics, leadership and mentorship in the legal field.

American Indian Law Center’s “Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaskan Natives” Recognized by the American Bar Association

Outstanding news! And well-deserved!

Here is the press release: PLSI ABA Award PressRel_FINAL

An excerpt:

Albuquerque, NM – December 13, 2011 – The Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaskan Natives (PLSI) today announced that it will be recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Education Pipeline for exemplary leadership in pipeline programming. PLSI is a program of the American Indian Law Center, Inc., that has been attended by many of the nation’s preeminent Native attorneys, judges, law school professors and deans, and tribal chairs since its inception in 1967.

The ABA 2012 Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Award for Excellence in Pipeline Diversity recognized PLSI for their exemplary leadership in pipeline work. The ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity commended PLSI for its “outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions to diversifying” the law profession. The ABA will formally honor PLSI at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, LA on February 3, 2012.