Professor Ron Whitener Honored By White House As A "Champion Of Change"

Professor Ron Whitener, Director of the University of Washington’s Native American Law Center and Of Counsel attorney at Foster Pepper PLLC, has been named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. Professor Whitener will be honored at an official dinner hosted by Attorney General Eric Holder on October 13, 2011.

As part of President Obama's Winning the Future Initiative (, the Champions program is featuring lawyers who dedicate their professional lives to closing the justice gap in America. The program seeks to honor a small group of people who are “Winning the Future” and inspire others to follow their lead.

Professor Whitener’s work in improving access to justice in Tribal communities has won national acclaim. His clinical program at the University of Washington serves as the public defender office for the Tulalip Tribes, and he has received a MacArthur Foundation grant for his work in developing a model juvenile justice system for Native American youth.

Coastal Tribes Scoring Export Win With Geoducks

Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine is featuring Tribes in the Puget Sound area that have successfully captured export markets in China and elsewhere with a unique product: the massive Geoduck clam. This unusual natural resource has become highly profitable due to growing consumer demand in Asia, and effective management and marketing by coastal Tribes has created a flourishing multi-million dollar industry. 

Foster Pepper Native American Group attorneys Greg Guedel and Ron Whitener are quoted in the article, which discusses the treaties and court decisions that affirmed Tribes' rights to Geoducks and other marine resources in their traditional lands. After solidifying their legal rights, Tribes that harvest Geoducks implemented strong monitoring and environmental protection for key marine areas, helping ensure the vitality and sustainability of this industry. With Geoduck habitat confined to the Northwest coast and a small area in California, Puget Sound Tribes are shaping the growth of this beneficial industry from a dominant market position.

MacArthur Foundation Grant Awarded To UW Native American Law Center For Tribal Youth Justice Program

Picture of Ron  Whitener

Professor Ron Whitener - UW Native American Law Center

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has just announced a $225,000 grant award to the University of Washington’s Native American Law Center, which will fund the Center’s ground-breaking new program to help Tribal communities develop strategies to address the needs of Native American children in state and Tribal juvenile justice systems. The program and grant were conceived and will be managed by Professor Ron Whitener, a Director of the University’s Native American Law Center. Professor Whitener is Assistant Professor of Law and the Director of the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic at the University, is Of Counsel to the law firm of Foster Pepper PLLC in Seattle, and serves as Chief Judge for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis.

The MacArthur Foundation is an international organization that supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

AALS Honors Professor Ron Whitener

Picture of Ron  Whitener

The Association of American Law Schools has selected Professor Ron Whitener as the 2009 recipient of the M. Shanara Gilbert “Emerging Clinician” award for excellence in clinical legal education. Professor Whitener is Assistant Professor of Law and the Director of the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic at University of Washington School of Law, is Of Counsel to the law firm of Foster Pepper PLLC in Seattle, and serves as Chief Judge for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis.

The AALS award announcement states:

Through the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic, Ron Whitener has made access to justice a reality for countless clients and has helped to train a new generation of advocates for American Indians. For many American Indians, the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic is the only source of representation for those facing criminal charges because tribal courts are not required by law to provide legal representation. Professor Whitener saw this pressing need, started this clinic, and has helped to expand its reach through fundraising. In addition, Professor Whitener has helped to build the clinical program at University of Washington and has been a resource to other clinical programs. Professor Whitener also is an engaged scholar, authoring or co-authoring three journal articles focused on legal and health issues affecting American Indians.


Professor Whitener is actively involved in American Indian legal issues. He began his career as Legal Counsel to the Squaxin Island Tribe, of which he is a member, and he has done lay advocate and other legal training for nearly a dozen other tribes in addition to direct representation of clients. He frequently speaks about treaty rights, tribal jurisdiction, and other legal issues affecting American Indians. He has also promoted international clinical legal education efforts through his collaboration with the Afghan Legal Educators Program, a program of the Asian Law Center at the University of Washington. Afghan law faculty participating in that program visited tribal courts and attended meetings with faculty and students in the Tribal Court Public Defense Clinic.


The M. Shanara Gilbert Award will be presented at the Conference on Clinical Legal Education at a special ceremony on Friday, May 8, at 9:00 a.m., in Cleveland, Ohio. We look forward to seeing you in Cleveland and honoring Professor Whitener for his creativity in addressing a pressing legal need for an underserved community and his outstanding contributions to clinical legal education.