Trials for Dakota Access Pipeline protesters begin next week, but there aren’t enough attorneys to take their cases. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department lists 264 people who have no lawyer at all, and the 265 people who have been assigned public defense attorneys aren’t receiving adequate counsel.
In order to fix the problem, advocates from North Dakota and Minnesota are now trying to convince the North Dakota Supreme Court to give the green light to lawyers from other states — who have no license to practice in North Dakota — to come in and help. A group of 10 legal organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and lawyers from both states filed an official petition to the the court on Wednesday.
There have been mass arrests of DAPL protesters since August, when thousands of protesters set up camps on the Standing Rock reservation. The protesters, who call themselves Water Protectors, faced persistent, militarized policing by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department over the past few months. More than 550 people were detained for trumped up misdemeanor charges — including disorderly conduct, inciting a riot, and trespassing — and felony charges for reckless endangerment and conspiracy charges.