OU Law M.L.S. Students Support Native Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

July 9, 2020 | By Rebeka Morales, Event and Communications Coordinator
Four Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law students who have supported their communities during COVID-19

Many OU Law Master of Legal Studies students face the unique challenge of completing their online degree while continuing to serve in their specific industry. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the M.L.S. in Indigenous Peoples Law program not only continue to excel in their coursework but have found ways to address the needs of their communities during the ongoing health crisis.

Through their professional roles, many IPL students serve Native communities impacted by COVID-19 by providing health and social services, educational online programs and community leadership. Others serve as volunteers, assisting with the collection and delivery of food, masks and supplies.

Photo of Heath BaileyHeath Bailey, a Spring 2020 M.L.S. in Indigenous Peoples Law graduate, works in national park management and helps facilitate understanding of the Pueblo Tribe’s cultural issues and needs during emergency response efforts, including those for COVID-19. Bailey was recently named Overall Outstanding Graduate Student for the 2019-2020 Academic Year by the University of Oklahoma’s Graduate Student Senate. 

Photo of Charles SamsCharles Sams, a Spring 2020 M.L.S. in Indigenous Peoples Law graduate, works as the communications director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Utah. He is the incident commander for his tribe, responsible for isolation orders for the reservation and implementing their emergency operating plans across all entities of the Tribe.

Photo of Crystal LeeCrystal Lee, a second-year M.L.S. in Indigenous Peoples Law student and assistant professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of New Mexico, works with Indian Country concerning health disparities. She is working with United Natives, a non-profit organization she founded, to help with relief efforts during COVID-19 in Navajo Nation in Arizona. Lee will graduate with her M.L.S. degree in August 2020.

Photo of Eric JayneEric Jayne, a second-year M.L.S. in Indigenous Peoples Law student is a licensed practicing veterinarian, who works in collaboration with the Rosebud and Blackfeet tribes, along with the Humane Society, to provide veterinary services for tribal members. The primary goal of this work during COVID-19 is to help the tribal governments provide self-sustaining veterinary care for tribal citizens. Jayne will graduate with his M.L.S. degree in December 2020.

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What led you to OU Law? I have wanted to go to law school since I was a teenager. I was active in speech contests and enjoyed making oral presentations. When I was in high school, I would go downtown and watch some of the trials at the courthouse, so, I got acquainted with the courtroom rather early. I obtained a Navy scholarship to go to OU. I was a regular Navy midshipman then I served three years in the far east before coming back to law school. I wanted to attend law school and came back to OU.



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What led you to OU Law? OU Law has been part of my family since the 1920s. My great uncle was Dr. Maurice Merrill, a 1922 graduate of OU Law who then earned a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University in 1925. Merrill taught at OU Law for 30 years, published numerous seminal works in oil and gas law, constitutional law, administrative law and the law of Notice. While still in his twenties, Merrill published the seminal treatise Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Law, which has been a cornerstone of my cases. In law school, I lived with Uncle Maurice and marveled at his longhand scrawl which was literally final copy in its first draft form. In my mind, he will always be ten times the lawyer that I ever became.


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