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28 Idaho L. Rev. 307 (1991-1992)
A Quincentennial Essay on Martinez v. Santa Clara Pueblo

handle is hein.journals/idlr28 and id is 321 raw text is: A QUINCENTENNIAL ESSAY ON
MARTINEZ v. SANTA CLARA PUEBLO
ROBERT LAURENCE*
INTRODUCTION
Martinez v. Santa Clara Pueblo1 is, in my view, the single most
interesting case in all of Anglo-American jurisprudence. I'll give you a
moment to ponder such an extraordinary claim.2
* Professor of Law, University of Arkansas.
1. 402 F. Supp. 5 (D.N.M. 1975), rev'd 540 F.2d 1039 (10th Cir. 1976), rev'd 436
U.S. 49 (1978).
2. While you're pondering, I'll make a couple of points:
1. Note the citation in footnote 1. Three opinions were written and by Martinez
I mean the package. Of the three, the Supreme Court's opinion is the least interesting,
filled as it is with talk of procedural issues and implied civil causes of action. It's the
merits of the case that I find interesting and they are mostly contained in the lower court
opinions. But see note 93, infra.
2. Interesting does not mean the same thing as important. The most impor-
tant case in federal Indian law is probably Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515
(1832), which early on saved the Indian tribes from annihilation at the hands of hostile
state governments and, at the same time, was one of the important steps in John Mar-
shall's establishment of the federal government as the dominant power in the young na-
tion. The most important case in all of Anglo-American jurisprudence? Beyond the
scope of this essay.
3. Most interesting in all of Anglo-American jurisprudence is different from
most interesting Indian law case. P.S. Deloria, the director of the American Indian
Law Center in Albuquerque makes a strong case for Menominee Tribe v. United States,
391 U.S. 404 (1968), as the most interesting Indian law case, suggesting, as it did, that
tribal sovereignty survives even the federal government's attempt to destroy it. But that
case is too subtle and esoteric to capture the interest of people outside the field.
4. My claim for Martinez is not restricted to what lawyers find interesting. One of
the attractions of the case is that one can set up the problem for non-lawyers, then step
aside and let the discussion flow.
5. When I make the most interesting claim on the first day of Indian law class,
I'm often met with more than a few skeptical expressions. But when I ask a skeptical
student to name a more interesting case, after four or five semesters of law school, it is
very rare that one is offered. Have you ever asked a student to name the most interesting
case he or she has ever read? I fear that our students don't find the study of law particu-
larly interesting. That's why Indian law ought to be a required course at every law
school.
6. And while we're at it, can you name a more interesting case?

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