Stacy L. Leeds, the first Native American female dean and a prominent Indian law trailblazer, has been appointed Foundation Professor of Law and Leade
Stacy L. Leeds, the first Native American female dean and a prominent Indian law trailblazer, has been appointed Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Leeds will be part of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program, joining a cohort of Native faculty that is the largest and most experienced in the country.
A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Leeds served previously as ASU Law’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor. She carved her place in history when she was named the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2011, becoming the first Native American woman to be appointed to such a position. Most recently, she was the vice chancellor for economic development, dean emeritus and a professor at the University of Arkansas.
“We are beyond honored to have Stacy, the most accomplished and leading educator in Indian Law, become a part of ASU, our renowned Indian Legal Program, and our amazing Native faculty – which is like no other in the nation,” ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said. “Stacy’s passion and dedication to Indian law, and her determination to help inform Indian law policy and the next generation of lawyers will be a wonderful addition to our faculty and for our students. I am thrilled to have Stacy join us in continuing to advance the nation’s premier Indian law faculty and program.”
“Hiring Professor Stacy Leeds further cements the Indian Legal Program’s place as a leader and innovator in the field,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, senior adviser to the president and President’s Professor at ASU. “She adds to an already accomplished group of faculty, bringing unique insights into leadership, economic development and the role of Indian law related to land, children and natural resources.”
From the Indian Child Welfare Act to business diversification to tribal agriculture, Leeds has combined scholarship and practice to advance and defend Indian rights. Her passion for the law started early in her undergraduate studies when she took a grad school course in social work. The final project involved mock testimony before Congress on Indian child welfare issues. Leeds says she “was hooked by the process, the research and the oral advocacy” and knew then she wanted to go to law school. She obtained two law degrees — a Master of Laws degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa — and later obtained an MBA from the University of Tennessee while a professor at the University of Kansas.
“I have long admired the work of my new ASU Indian law colleagues and am thrilled to join such a prestigious group,” Leeds said. “Holistically, I am very drawn to ASU’s campuswide identity as the national leader in innovation and look forward to helping grow the next generation of Indigenous entrepreneurs and leaders.”
ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program was established in 1988 and, through its connections to each of Arizona’s federally recognized 22 tribes, is home to one of the highest concentrations of Native American students and Indian law students in the nation. Leeds joins a team of other nationally recognized faculty who are leading scholars in their fields, with Kate Rosier serving as the program’s executive director. Rosier, also ASU Law’s assistant dean of institutional progress, said the addition of Leeds to the college’s faculty presents a phenomenal opportunity to expand the college’s curriculum and increase engagement with Indian Country.
“Professor Leeds is a leading Indian Law scholar and a fierce and talented Indigenous woman who has made history more than once. During her tenure here as a visiting professor she quickly became an invaluable team member in the Indian Legal Program as well as a trusted and frequently sought-out mentor to many students. She is an inspiration and we are excited to begin this new year with Professor Leeds on our team,” Rosier said.
“I am delighted to have Professor Leeds join our faculty,” said Laura Coordes, associate professor of law and chair of the faculty hiring committee. “She is an incredible scholar, teacher and leader, and will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to our students and faculty alike.”
In addition to her recent visiting professor role, Leeds has been connected to ASU Law for many years. Several of the students she has taught in prelaw programs or otherwise mentored have started their careers at ASU Law. Leeds also delivered the keynote at ASU Law’s William C. Canby Jr. Lecture Series in 2013, and she served as a championship-round judge at the National Native American Law Student Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition when ASU Law hosted the annual event in 2018.
Leeds has also made a significant impact in the Native legal community. She is a former justice for the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court, the first woman to serve in that capacity. Leeds also served as a judge for several other Native nations and as a member of the board of directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association and chair of the American Bar Association Judicial Division’s Tribal Courts Council.
She currently is a Muscogee (Creek) Nation district court judge and an appellate court judge for Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. She serves on the boards of Kituwah, LLC; American Indian Graduate Center; Akiptan, Inc.; and the American Indian Resource Center, Inc.