FACULTY PROFILE Adam Crepelle
A new jurisdiction
Assistant Professor Adam Crepelle is an expert in Indigenous Peoples law and policy
Assistant Professor Adam Crepelle, who joined the School of Law faculty in July, focuses on criminal justice and economic development issues related to Indigenous Peoples. A member of the United Houma Nation, Crepelle is a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and a former commissioner on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Here, Crepelle discusses his passion for Indian law and the courses he’ll be teaching.
How did your interest in Indian law develop?
I was in law school in Baton Rouge when the BP oil spill happened. The Houma are located on the Gulf Coast, and we were hit really hard. It was a severe situation for people working in the oil and fishing industries. And it seemed like everybody in Louisiana was getting money from BP except the Houma.
I assumed my law professors would know how to help the Houma, but they told me they didn’t know anything about Indian law. So I took it upon myself to learn, and the more I learned, the more intrigued I became.
What did you find intriguing?
Well, there are lots of things to gripe about! There’s much to say about how the laws aren’t working well [for Indigenous Peoples]. For example, if you go on a reservation and stab someone, the tribe can’t prosecute you unless you’re an Indian. The Supreme Court determined that tribes lack criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians in 1978, and the decision is still the law. I use that example in my civil procedure.
How else do you weave your expertise into classes?
When you go into a contracts class, you have an idea of what a contract is based upon your life experience. But civil procedure—what is that? The subject is an empty space for most nonlawyers. Civil procedure is about how federal courts operate. It’s the rules of the litigation game. Indian law examples help demonstrate the importance of civil procedure concepts. Jurisdiction is a major topic in civil procedure, but it’s difficult to grasp what it is and why it matters. However, when you explain that tribes cannot prosecute non-Indian criminals because tribes lack criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, the concept becomes more relatable.
“The Supreme Court determined that tribes lack criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians in 1978, and the decision is still the law.”
Which other courses will you be teaching?
I’ll be teaching federal Indian law in the spring. When I went for my job talk, I learned that Loyola invited someone to do a seminar on the topic because student demand was so great. I found this really interesting because Illinois is not an Indian law hotspot. There are no federally recognized tribes in Illinois. But Loyola has a social justice-oriented mission that overlaps heavily with Indian law. I’m excited. It’s a new opportunity, and there seems to be enthusiasm on campus about Indian law. –Kelsey Schagemann (July 2023)
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