As third year student Caroline LaPorte walks across the bricks, she is hard to miss. That’s because Caroline pushes her smiling 3-month-old son, Sutton Francis, around in a stroller most school days. Sutton was named to honor Caroline’s grandfather, Francis, whom she recently learned was placed in an Indian boarding school at age eight.
Being a wife and new mother is not the only thing LaPorte has going on these days. The Florida-born immediate descendant of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians(LRBOI) has been elected to the Executive Board of Directors for the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA), as the Area 5 Representative. Area 5 includes law schools in Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
LaPorte, a Philosophy major at Baylor University who will be moving to Texas after graduation, worked as a Miami Teaching Fellow in Liberty City and Little Haiti before attending law school. LaPorte decided to go to law school when began to see how the law affected people on a very personal level.
“Seeing how the law could either build up or tear down our communities prompted me to think of my own community and how I could strive to be a part of the movements that are positively affecting Indian Country. Law school was the natural choice,” said LaPorte.
LaPorte originally learned of the opportunities that exist within NNALSA during her 1L Summer, when she interned at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Tribal Justice. It was also during this internship that LaPorte realized she wanted to practice Federal Indian Law, due mostly to the individuals who make up the Office of Tribal Justice.
“Being able to witness and assist in the Tribal Nations Leadership Council, with the BIA’s tribal representatives and Attorney General Eric Holder, is a highlight of my experience as a law student. It was empowering to see tribal leaders in a government-to-government meeting advocate to better the quality of life on behalf of all tribes,” said LaPorte.
As an NNALSA representative, LaPorte will work with chapters from other law schools, promote events, facilitate networking, and network with other likeminded law students. She will take a trip to Oklahoma University this February for NNALSA’s Annual Moot Court Competition, as part of the rules committee. Part of LaPorte’s responsibilities as a member of NNALSA’s Board of Directors is to help host NNALSA’s annual writing competition, which awards the winner a publication agreement in an Indian Law Review at the host school. LaPorte will also attend the Annual Indian Law Symposium in Santa Fe in April.
When asked what she is the most excited about working with the NNALSA, LaPorte explained, “I have gotten to work with the other E-Board members. Being able to plug into this group and work with these other law students is something I feel truly humbled by. I know every one of these individuals will be affecting positive change in Indian country as their careers progress and simply being around them inspires and empowers me.”