Lawrence Baca Wins FBA’s Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award

Congratulations, Lawrence on this well-deserved honor!!

Lawrence Baca’s Bio

Lawrence Baca is a Pawnee Indian and at the time of his retirement was Deputy Director of the Office of Tribal Justice, United States Department of Justice. Formerly a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division, he was previously assigned to the Educational Opportunities Litigation Section for twelve years, the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section for eight years, the General Litigation Section for two years and the Office of Indian Rights for four years. The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights said of Baca that he’d filed more cases on behalf of American Indians in his career than any other attorney in the history of the Civil Rights Division. His civil rights work on behalf of American Indians in the areas of Credit, Voting Rights and Education was groundbreaking.

A 1976 graduate of Harvard Law School, Baca was one of the first American Indians to graduate from Harvard. He was the first American Indian ever hired through the Department of Justice’s Honor Law Program and also the first Indian ever promoted up through the ranks to Senior Trial Attorney status at the Department. At the time of his retirement Baca had served more years with the Department of Justice than any other American Indian lawyer.

In 1973, Baca received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in “American Indian History and Culture” from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also taught two courses on Indian issues during his senior year. In 1974, while attending law school, he was a Harvard Teaching Fellow at Harvard University and, in 1976, he taught a course entitled “Perspectives On The Historical Development of American Indian Policy and Law” at the Harvard University Extension School. In 1988, Mr. Baca was presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an Adjunct Professorial Lecturer teaching Federal Indian Law at American University Washington College of Law in 2004 and 2005 and he founded the course in Federal Indian Law at the Howard University School of Law in 2007 where he was an Adjunct Professor of Law.

As a member of the American Bar Association, Mr. Baca was Chairman of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession from 2002-2005. Previously he has worked with the Younger Lawyers Division, the Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities, the Committee on Minorities in the Profession and the Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice. Baca has been a Program Coordinator of the Committee on Problems of American Indians and has given numerous lectures on the role of American Indian Lawyers as minority members of the majority bar. He also lectures frequently on the role of race in society, civil rights law and federal Indian law.

He is a past President of the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) and has served on its board of directors, in various capacities, for twenty-six of the past thirty-five years. He has served as President of NNABA three times.

Mr. Baca is a member of the Federal Bar Association (FBA). In 2009-10 he served as national President. He was the first American Indian ever elected to be national president of a non-minority bar association. He previously served for 20 years as Chairman of the Indian Law Section which he created. The Indian Law Section sponsors the largest annual federal Indian law conference in America. Under Mr. Baca’s leadership, the program tripled in attendance during his chairmanship of the Indian Law Section.

Mr. Baca is a nationally recognized authority on federal Indian law and race and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and law schools.

A noted amateur photographer his work has appeared on the cover of the Federal Bar Association magazine, “The Federal Lawyer,” nineteen times. The April 2005 edition contained a retrospective of his cover photos.

More information on the award is below:

The Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award

Named after the renowned federal district judge from Dallas, Texas, the Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award was created to honor that man or woman who promotes the advancement of civil and human rights amongst us, and who exemplifies Judge Hughes’ spirit and legacy of devoted service and leadership in the cause of equality. Judge Hughes was a pioneer in the fight for civil rights, due process, equal protection, and the rights of women.

CRITERIA AND PROCESS: The Award will be presented each year at the President’s Installation Banquet to an attorney or judge whose career achievements have made a difference in advancing the causes that were important to Judge Hughes. Such work may include either ground-breaking achievement or a body of sustained and dedicated work in the area of civil rights, due process, and equal protection. The nominee should have at least ten years of practice. The nominee must either be a member in good standing of a state bar association or retired. The nominee should demonstrate sustained and verifiable excellence in the legal profession, and be of good character.

Tribal Judge Profiles in The Federal Lawyer

Lauryn Boston’s profile of Judge Mark Pouley is here.

Schuyler Tilson’s profile of Judge Mary Jo Hunter is here.

And my profile of Judge Ron Whitener is here.