This summer the Escondido Office was fortunate to host DaNikka Huss, a second-year law student at the James E. Rogers School of Law at the University of Arizona, as a law clerk. “DaNikka came to CILS with more federal Indian and tribal law knowledge than most law clerks. She previously worked for her tribe, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, in several essential capacities. DaNikka showed constant enthusiasm for all aspects of our work, offered valuable input and suggestions to improve our outreach efforts, and never shied away from an assignment or an opportunity to join a CILS attorney in the field. While her kindness and dedication will be missed, school beckoned DaNikka back to Arizona. We hope to cross paths with DaNikka again in the future, perhaps as a law clerk or even better, an attorney,” said Mark Vezzola, Escondido Office Directing Attorney.
We asked DaNikka three questions. Her answers were remarkable.
1. Tell me about your background, aren’t you going to law school as a second career?
After completing my Bachelors in Business, I went to work for my tribe, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, as the Administrative Assistant to Chairman Smith. While there, I simultaneously held several positions, including enrollment officer, election committee chairperson, Land Buy-Back Program Coordinator. It was while working for the tribe I completed my Masters in Human Behavior. Although the job was rewarding and never had a dull moment, I realized that to make significant changes in Indian Country, I would have to leave and reach beyond just Pala. After working for the tribe for six years, I decided it was time to pursue a dream I had since childhood, going to law school.
2. Why become a lawyer? Who influenced you? What is your dream?
Growing up, my parents were foster parents to dozens of children. When I was six, I had a foster sister named Julie. She had been removed from her father. Julie and I were the same age. She had dark brown ringlets and a bubbly personality, but she despised her biological father. She would be so terrified of her supervised visits with her father; I would come along to play with her. Eventually, the judge allowed Julie to return to her father. Not too long after that, he murdered her and fled the country, leaving her body stuffed underneath a bed only to be found weeks later when residents complained of a foul odor. Our family found out about it on the news. I can remember my mom screaming in her bedroom when the news broadcast came on. I was seven, and that was the moment I said I would become a judge so that could not happen to another child. I knew, even then, someone needed to do a better job at protecting children.
From a young age, my parents reinforced the importance of education. They had a vision of me going to law school and becoming a judge and a politician. Although I didn’t follow a traditional route, it is strange to see how things have come full-circle, and now, here I am a second-year law student. However, I can’t be assured that judgeship or politics is in my future, but rather I am trying to keep an open mind to all areas of law.
3. What is memorable about your time as a law clerk with CILS? What was surprising?
I am just floored at how kind everyone was. Each day staff would come in to check on me, see if I needed anything, ask me how my weekend was, and what I was working on. The little efforts that staff made to go out of there way really made me feel comfortable and a part of the team.
I was most surprised at the variety of topics in the intake calls CILS receives. Ranging from ICWA to help with franchise contract law, the types of law potential clients need help with is spread across the board. There is a wide variety of situations CILS is asked to assist with.
We thank DaNikka for her hard work and kind words. We wish her a fast track through the next two years of law school. We are cheering her on.