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New Mexico, home to 173,000 American Indians, has become the first state to add federal Indian law as a subject on its state bar exam. Broader issues of Indian law, rather than specific laws of each of the state’s 22 tribes, will be among 23 subjects that could pop up in the essay portion of the exam taken by law school graduates or lawyers moving to the state. The move demonstrates “that these native issues are not peripheral, that Indians are not peripheral,” said Calvin Lee, a Navajo and third-year law student at the University of New Mexico. Lawyers in New Mexico run into questions of Indian law in such areas as gambling, child welfare, zoning, water, jurisdiction in criminal cases and taxation of gasoline and cigarettes. “Increasingly, lawyers understand — and certainly judges understand — that you can’t practice law in New Mexico without understanding the importance of Indian law, the importance of tribal sovereignty,” said Kenneth Bobroff, a law professor at the University of New Mexico. The exam is given in February and July. February 2003 will be the first time an Indian law question could appear. The New Mexico Supreme Court approved the addition in February. No other state tests bar applicants on federal Indian law, said Richard Duffy, vice president of BAR-BRI, a Chicago-based service that prepares law students for bar exams around the nation. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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