Home » Christine Zuni Cruz: “Rebellious Lawyering” is seeing clients in “context of community”

Christine Zuni Cruz: “Rebellious Lawyering” is seeing clients in “context of community”

chris cruz

“When stereotypes or overfamiliarization with both problems and people from a community begin to drive the lawyering of individuals, there is significant danger in the failure to see viable solutions that may be available or problems with the ‘standard’ approach and its applicability to an individual’s unique circumstance. An example of this is contained in the description of a lawyer in a progressive non-profit office in Gerald Lopez’ Rebellious Lawyering. Boz, a housing attorney in Lopez’ scenario, was seen as not expecting ‘more than a beaten down, resourceless, uncooperative client. The repertoire of formal strategies Boz seems willing to explore was as stingy and inflexible as her attitude toward clients. She handled her load ‘case by case’ in the most mechanical sense.’ This can occur when lawyers do not see their clients in context — but only in relation to their legal problems, and when they see them individually, without the context of community.”


Dickason Professor
Associate Dean for the Law Program
B.A. 1980, Stanford University
J.D. 1982, The University of New Mexico 
Member of the New Mexico Bar

Christine Zuni Cruz came to the UNM law school in 1993 to establish the Southwest Indian Law Clinic, which provides students with a hands-on opportunity to practice Indian Law. She had served as a tribal judge, a tribal gaming commissioner and been in private practice for ten years.

In her research and teaching, Zuni Cruz, a member of Isleta Pueblo, explores law and culture, including the impact of law on Indian families, the practice of Indian Law and lawyering for native communities and the internal traditional and modern law of indigenous peoples domestically and internationally. In 2001, she traveled to Greenland where she helped teach an intensive course on international indigenous human rights at the International Training Center of Indigenous Peoples.

She currently serves as an associate justice on the Isleta Appellate Court. Previously, she was a tribal court judge with the Pueblo of Laguna, the Pueblo of Taos. She also was presiding judge with the Isleta Court of Tax Appeals and an appellate judge with the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals.


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