Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 16, 2016

Attorneys urge Morton Co. Prosecutor to Resign, Permission for Out-of-State Lawyers to Represent Water Protectors

Photo by Rob Wilson

Water Protector Legal Collective Calls for Morton County Prosecutor Resignation and Permission for Out-of-State Lawyers to Represent Water Protectors

MANDAN, North Dakota — Yesterday, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued an order calling for public comments on a petition filed by the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The deadline for comments is set for 4 PM on Friday, December 30.
The WPLC also called for the resignation of Acting Morton County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson after he filed a motion to hold indigent Water Protectors liable to repay the state for their court appointed lawyers, while belittling and calling the Water Protectors “props” and their movement a “protracted manufactured spectacular.”
On December 14, citing the existing emergency in the South-Central Judicial District, WPLC requested a temporary amendment to state rules that would ease requirements for temporary admission to practice law in the state. Under current rules, out-of-state lawyers must either apply on a case-by-case basis or make a full application from a state whose law license North Dakota recognizes.
“Denying Water Protectors their constitutional rights to counsel is a far more serious barrier to justice than concrete slabs across a highway,” said William Tilton, WPLC lawyer. “We filed to call on the Supreme Court to recognize this judicial emergency and open the courts to qualified criminal lawyers who are standing by to help.”
In August, Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency following the arrests of just 28 Water Protectors. Since then, there have been more than 500 additional arrests. To date, 75 North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 Water Protectors remain without lawyers. At least 113 were denied public defenders.
The petition also states that despite the overwhelming surge in arrests, no emergency funding has been set aside for the public defense system, which struggled to meet demand prior to the protests. Further, there are too few criminal defense lawyers to even represent those who do not qualify for public defenders, due to high caseloads and conflicts of interest.
The out-of-state lawyers are held back by problems under the case-by-case rules. Each must connect with an in-state lawyer, who must also attend all hearings. They have had significant problems finding willing in-state lawyers. The full application process for out-of-state lawyers is also a large burden, requiring weeks of information gathering and expenses of nearly $1,000 each.
In an ironic twist, local media have reported that the shortage of public defenders has also been worsened by the large increase in lucrative oil company legal work, driving many lawyers away from public criminal defense.
In his motion to the trial court judge, Erickson seeks an order on the state agency responsible for indigent defense to account for every hour and dime expended by court-appointed attorneys to assure large judgments against Water Protector defendants. To justify this unprecedented move, Erickson charged: “Each protester attack on our police officers, each riot, and each incidence of private property destruction has been done to create fake news videos used to bring attention, celebrities, both passionate and gullible people, and finally money – all to be focused on multiple issues of national discontent… Most protest criminal defendants are simply props for videos of staged events.”
“State’s Attorney Erickson set out to use the most slanderous words and harmful rhetoric he could muster to defame the Water Protector defendants, their lawyers and supporters, and undermine the legitimacy of the Standing Rock encampment and concern over the DAPL, said Jeff Haas, WPLC lawyer. “Certainly, another objective of Erikson’s motion was to bias prospective Morton County jurors who will be hearing the first Standing Rock jury trial set for Monday, December 19.
For the reasons above, WPLC calls on State’s Attorney Erickson to step down as prosecutor. WPLC calls on the courts to decide whether his prosecutorial conduct has tainted the jury pool and prevented a fair trial to the point that the Water Protectors’ cases must be dismissed.
WPLC urges people to comment, in writing, on the rule amendments that would make it easier for out-of-state lawyers to represent Water Protectors, by 4 PM, Friday, December 30, 2016. Comments may be e-mailed to Penny Miller, Clerk of the Supreme Court, at, or addressed to 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND 58505-0530.
The Water Protector Legal Collective is the National Lawyers Guild legal support team for those engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It maintains a 24/7 presence on-site at the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Contact: Brandy Toelupe, WPLC President: (720) 876-8300 |
Tasha Moro, NLG Communications Director (212) 679-5100, ext. 15 |


T Hawk said...

No doubt, the states attorney should resign. In violation of the ciizens right of the 5th amendment and " Due process " of the 14th amendment and in violation of the 6th amendment "Right of Speedy Trial" Ladd Erickson shows incompetence abd disregard for even the " Miranda Rights" of citizens, " But , oh this is. 'Nazi' North Dakota"...., Nationalize them attorney's....

Unknown said...

there is so much corruption going on here and it stinks to high heaven...where is the aclu...where is the legal protection for these people...why is this happening? It is disgusting...IF anything, the police and private security should all be rounded up and arrested and tried as domestic terrorists and the water protectors lauded as heroes for doing what all of us should be doing...this whole thing is outrageous. It has shown the public who is really in control of the government and it isn't the people. These cowards
have zero regard for people...Look at all the cops killing unarmed people. Someone has to stand up to these bullies and end it once and for all...

waterislife said...

JAIL, the threat of jail for not committing a crime.
The threat to keep everyday people under control, to shut up the visionaries, to kill the illuminaries, to silence the poets and singers.
One half million people in local jails in America for less than serious offenses, traffic tickets, marijuana,
anything that police want to say somebody did tickets,
800 Deaths in those jails in 2015 because poor people can't post the $$ bails.

800 Jail deaths in USA in 2015.

Sandra Bland didn't signal a lane change for a police car pulling up, she got a $5,000.00 bail.
Sandra couldn't pay the bail.

Sandra Bland, $5,000.00 bail,
Died in jail.

Eight Hundred People,
In a rotten, filthy,
sadistic hatred policy
Used against ordinary people,
Poor people, colorful people, disabled people, without regular housing people

800 people
without a trial, Died

kept in jail,
who didn't have $$,
to pay the bail,

mothers who couldn't afford to pay the fines of unknown crimes,
Ahead of time, for illegal actions never committed,
Accused of being a savage never repented,
800 dead who never wanted to be the target,


While waiting for a trial,
Not convicted,
No attorney,
No judge or jury,
No sentence,
Just Death.
No goodbyes, no last supper.

Eight Hundred Innocent until guilty,
America is dying under hate

waterislife said...

Bureau of Justice Statistics

2013 Inmate Deaths in U.S.
State Prisons & Local Jails:
Four Thousand Four Hundred
Forty Six, 4,446 Deaths

4,446 Inmate Deaths in 2013

34% due to suicide, were they all suicides?
How many tears?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenet said...

The state's attorney has spewed prejudice against this case with all his DEROGATORY REMARKS for EVERYONE to HEAR. Without knowing the truth of what has occurred, prejudiced by the sheriff, governor and their henchmen! ALL because they have used the tax payer's money (Native Americans are Tax Payers) in the amount of 17 million to request EMAC, additional law enforcement, and also to purchase humungous (fire dept size) cannisters of bear mace, teargas, "non-lethal bullets, etc., all to brutalize PRAYERFUL Water Protectors. Clearly he's biased and shouldn't be allowed to prosecute this case!! The trial will not be fair and impartial. He is tying the defendants hands behind their backs in not allowing their evidence, so they have "No Defense." Some of the jury panel have "biased opinions," the judge is not impartial and should be removed. The defendants have no unbiased, credible lawyers to represent them from North Dakota, not allowing them proper, legal defense. They're All representing the "GOOD OLE BOY'S CLUB!!"