Current and former MLSA staff members were honored at the annual Montana State Bar meeting in Helena on September 22 for their contributions to the legal and justice communities.
Tribal Law Attorney Kathryn Seaton was awarded the Frank I. Haswell Award for best contribution to the Montana Lawyer for her series of articles on Indian Law, written in the form of Q&A’s with tribal practitioners and judges. In selecting Seaton, the selection committee noted that "Indian Law is an area that many experienced and knowledgeable attorneys don’t have a lot of expertise in, and the articles have been a great primer for people who might have been intimidated to practice tribal law." Seaton continues to lead MLSA's Tribal Law Practice Group and is dedicated to increasing access to justice in tribal communities.
Meanwhile, former MLSA Executive Director Klaus Sitte was awarded the Neil Haight Pro Bono Award for his lifelong commitment to pro bono work, both during his time with MLSA and in the years after. Over the course of his 40 years with MLSA, he was a key proponent and designer of Montana's pro bono programs, including developing Montana's rules for limited scope work. Since retiring, he has remained dedicated to providing pro bono services to low income Montanans, including through MLSA's Montana Eviction Intervention Project, which provides legal assistance to tenants facing eviction, and Second Act Justice Project, which works with retired, emeritus attorneys to provide pro bono services to MLSA clients. His work has had a significant impact on the lives of his clients. As one former client, Sarah Kate Wallace, wrote: “My gratitude for my new life because of Klaus’ pro bono work is unending and has formed an ability in me to pay it forward. I suppose I feel I could never pay it back, largely because there is no expectation of anything in return. What a humbling gift.”
Fort Peck Tribal Court Judge Stacie FourStar was also awarded the Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award for her efforts to increas access to justice for members of the Fort Peck and Assiniboine Sioux Tribes. As chief judge of the Fort Peck Tribal Court since 2015, Justice FourStar has been instrumental in spearheading projects that allow the tribe to provide legal services at no cost to the people in the court’s jurisdiction, including projects to address domestic violence and substance abuse. MLSA Attorney Kathryn Seaton applauded Judge FourStar for her support of MLSA's work on the Fort Peck Reservation, writing: “Judge FourStar has been a tireless advocate for Montana Legal Services Association’s work at Fort Peck,” Seaton wrote in her nomination letter. “She is always available to provide insight, advice, and connections for any new projects to increase availability of legal aid services at MLSA."