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.

FBA Indian Law Section Members, Nominations are open for the Baca Lifteime Achievement Award

If you’re not a member of the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Section, there’s still time to join. Here is the notice from Lawrence Baca, Chair of the Nominations Committee:

Dear Indian Law Section Members:

Please consider nominating someone for the Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award. Past recipients of the Baca Lifetime Achievement Award include Lawrence Baca, Professor Phil Frickey, John Echohawk, Professor David Getches, Alan Taradash, Professor Carole E. Goldberg and Tom Fredericks.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 6, 2015. Please submit nominations to the Chairman of the Nominations and Awards Committee, Lawrence Baca, at with a cc to . Nominations should specifically address why the nominee meets the criteria for the award outlined below.

Qualifications for Lawrence Baca Lifetime Achievement Award:

1. Nominee must have worked in the field of Indian law for at least twenty years as a practitioner, judge, legislator, leader, scholar or educator;
2. Be of good standing and held in high esteem in his or her professional arena;
3. And have made significant contributions to the field of Indian law through litigation, development of legislation, scholarship or the development of Indian law students or through tribal leadership.

The nomination submission must include:
1. A nominating letter that specifically addresses in narrative form how the nominee meets each of the three Award criteria.
2. A current resume or vitae.
(Reference to a website where the information can be found is not accepted as a substitute for the written narrative.)

The nomination submission may include:
1. 1-3 letters of support for the nomination.
2. Up to 3 articles about the nominee
Do not include articles written by the nominee.


2015 Nominations and Awards Committee
Lawrence Baca

Lawrence Baca on Mary Smith’s Stalled Nomination to the DOJ Tax Division

From ICT:

Mary L. Smith has been nominated to be the assistant attorney general for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice. Having been nominated April 20, 2009, she is the longest-standing presidential nominee not to receive a full Senate vote. While I have kept a respectful silence during this process, the time has come when I can be silent no longer. She merits immediate confirmation.

An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Mary Smith is a historic first. When the Senate confirms her, Smith will be the highest ranking Native American in the 140-year history of the Department of Justice and the first Native American to serve as an assistant attorney general. All of Indian country should be outraged that a Native American nominee continues to be denied a full Senate vote more than a year after her original nomination. We must all raise our collective voice and tell President Barack Obama and the Senate to do everything possible to move her nomination to a confirmation vote.

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Lawrence Baca Awarded ABA “Spirit of Excellence Award”

From Mike McBride of Crowe Dunlevy:

The American Bar Association Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Profession honored Lawrence R. Baca with a “Spirit of Excellence Award” on Saturday, February 9, 2008 in Beverly Hills at the 2008 Mid-Year meeting.
The Commission honored Lawrence’s lifetime achievement of contributions to the field of federal Indian law and civil rights.  He retired from the United States Department of Justice in Washington D.C. after over 30 years of service earlier this month.  Excerpts from the program are attached.
Congratulations to Lawrence!