About the Project

The United States Constitution gives the federal government exclusive authority over Indian affairs, and the federal courts play a crucial role in defining the contours of the body of law known as federal Indian law.  The jurisdictional scheme on Indian lands is painfully complex, and due to the federal enforcement responsibilities under various federal laws and administrative regulations, Indian individuals are parties to federal court proceedings at grossly disproportionate rates to their non-Indian counterparts.  As such, the federal judiciary is regularly tasked with making decisions that have a lasting impact on the day-to-day life in tribal communities.  Few federal judges have ever visited an Indian community or a tribal court, let alone been primed on the unique legal relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes.  Read more…

In order to combat this dearth of Indian law knowledge and increase diversity on the federal bench, the National Congress of American Indians launched its Project on the Judiciary.  The Project is a national effort to encourage tribal participation in the federal judicial selection process and to increase awareness among tribal leaders, federal judges, and key decision-makers about the importance of federal courts and the role of the federal judiciary in Indian Country.  With the generous support of the Open Society Institute, the Project continues to strengthen its mission moving forward, as it works toward fulfillment of these goals by expanding its outreach and educational efforts and ensures that qualified Native American candidates are given fair consideration during the federal judicial selection process.


The Project’s primary goal has always been to ensure that the federal judiciary is composed of individuals who understand the unique legal status of Indian tribes and will approach Indian issues from an unbiased perspective.  More recently, the Project has not only continued its outreach and educational efforts, but has also expanded its efforts to increase diversity on the federal bench by raising awareness about the lack of Native American representation on the federal judiciary and by assisting in the identification, nomination, and confirmation of qualified Native American attorneys to fill vacant federal judgeships. 

The Project utilizes the following core strategies to achieve these goals:

  1. Educate federal judges about federal Indian law and tribal justice systems
  2. Educate tribal leaders about the significance of the federal judiciary
  3. Ensure that American Indians and Alaska Natives receive fair consideration for federal vacancies
  4. Assist Native American law students with the judicial clerkship process

Get Involved

This website strives to act as a resource for anyone interested in helping achieve these goals.  For more information on how you can help promote these goals, please visit the What Can I Do? page, or make your own suggestions on the Contact Us page.  Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day.