Al­lie Green­leaf Mal­don­ado

FIGHT FOR NA­TIVE-AMER­I­CAN PARENTAL RIGHTS IS PER­SONAL FOR JUDGE

The Detroit News - - Front Page -

The only lawyers Al­lie Green­leaf Mal­don­ado saw while grow­ing up were on tele­vi­sion or in the movies. Years later in col­lege, a pro­fes­sor chal­lenged her to con­sider the un­think­able: be­come a judge.

“Qui­etly, se­cretly, I dared to dream of one day be­com­ing a judge,” she said. But doubt crept in. “I did not know of any­one who looked like me on the bench. Fur­ther­more, I un­der­stood how be­ing con­nected to the right peo­ple im­pacted your ca­reer. My fam­ily and I were not con­nected to any­one in power.” That did not mat­ter. Mal­don­ado grad­u­ated in the top third of her class from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Law School.

Mal­don­ado now is the chief judge for the 4,566 cit­i­zens of the Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay Bands of Odawa In­di­ans in Pe­toskey. She is a cit­i­zen of the tribe and a mem­ber of the Tur­tle Clan. She was ap­pointed the Chief Judge of the LTBB Tribal Court in 2012.

Af­ter get­ting her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree from the City Univer­sity of New York and Ju­ris Doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Law School, Mal­don­ado was se­lected through the Hon­ors Pro­gram at the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice to be a lit­i­ga­tor in the In­dian Re­sources Sec­tion of the En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Divi­sion in Wash­ing­ton.

In Septem­ber 2002, Mal­don­ado re­turned to Michi­gan to serve as as­sis­tant gen­eral coun­sel for the Lit­tle Tra­verse Bay Bands of Odawa In­di­ans, a po­si­tion she held un­til her ap­point­ment as Chief Judge of the Tribal Court.

But it is her tire­less work to bring the state into

Ed­u­ca­tion: com­pli­ance with the In­dian Child Wel­fare Act that earned her the Un­sung Hero Award by the Michi­gan State Bar. Mal­don­ado suc­cess­fully lit­i­gated the first case in which the Michi­gan Court of Ap­peals over­turned the ter­mi­na­tion of parental rights due to a fail­ure by the state to fol­low ICWA. “The ICWA is a fed­eral law passed in 1978 in re­sponse to the alarm­ingly high num­ber of In­dian chil­dren be­ing re­moved from their homes un­der fed­eral and state In­dian re­moval poli­cies,” said Mal­don­ado, 46. “Yet there are still ar­eas of the coun­try to­day where ICWA is ig­nored or mis­ap­plied. Michi­gan used to be one of those states. I went to law school be­cause I wanted to keep what hap­pened to my fam­ily from hap­pen­ing to other Na­tive fam­i­lies.”

She cred­its her tribe for mak­ing it pos­si­ble to achieve the suc­cesses with the ICWA.

“With­out their un­wa­ver­ing sup­port, I could not have fo­cused on child wel­fare is­sues,” she said.

For the judge, those child wel­fare is­sues are per­sonal.

Her grand­mother, Lou Ella Bush, and all of her great-un­cles fell vic­tim to the prac­tice of re­mov­ing Na­tive Amer­i­can chil­dren from their homes and plac­ing them in a board­ing school. Her mother, Donna Lou Chap­man, also was re­moved from her home af­ter her mother died when Chap­man still was a child.

“My mother could have been placed with a dozen dif­fer­ent ap­pro­pri­ate rel­a­tives,” Mal­don­ado said. “In­stead, she was sent to live as a do­mes­tic worker for a Men­non­ite min­is­ter and his wife. This was a com­mon prac­tice be­fore the In­dian Child Wel­fare Act.” Fam­ily: Hus­band, Jay Mal­don­ado; two daugh­ters Why hon­ored: Lit­i­gated the first case in which the Michi­gan Court of Ap­peals over­turned the ter­mi­na­tion of parental rights due to a fail­ure by the state to fol­low ICWA

Shawn D. Lewis

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