Law Student Helps Protect Tribal Land Through Justice Department Internship

Smiling young man poses at beach
Jesse Honig, J.D. ’23, is interning this summer with a U.S. Department of Justice office that helps protect tribal land.

UC Hastings student Jesse Honig, J.D. ’23, is spending this summer on the frontlines of environmental and American Indian law. Honig, a rising 3L student from Santa Cruz, is an intern with the U.S. Justice Department, Environmental and Natural Resources Division’s Indian Resources Office.

What are your duties?

I work closely with attorneys in the Indian Resources Section of ENRD to assist in litigating to protect the millions of acres of land held by the United States in trust for tribes. This includes issues related to water rights adjudications and legal research related to the scope of tribal lands and jurisdiction as well as novel constitutional issues. Our office is small, but the cases that I have been fortunate enough to work on this summer implicate vast quantities of land and important principles of Tribal Sovereignty.

Why is this work important?

Climate change, once a threat for future generations, is here. While the scope of the threat is global, the impacts are often felt locally. Working in this role means assisting tribes in asserting and solidifying their rights to lands and resources. As climate change continues to drive increasingly severe droughts and severe weather, this work will only become more important. The office works in partnership with tribes to advocate for tribal rights and resolve these types of environmental disputes. The work the office does extends far beyond typical environmental issues to pressing constitutional questions and the future of tribal sovereignty.

How will this help your legal career?

This will help me work towards my goal of practicing environmental law and advocating for environmental justice. I hope to continue my career working for government agencies or non-profit organizations and bring my experience with DOJ to future roles. Through this internship, I will gain experience working with a wide range of stakeholders, which I hope will be a valuable skill that I can carry with me into the future.

More about Honig

Honig, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and environmental analysis from Pitzer College, worked with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office during a previous summer internship. He also worked with the California Public Utilities Commission as part of the UC Hastings Environmental Law Clinic. While at Hastings, Honig served as president of Hastings Human Rights and International Law Organization (HHRILO) and external vice president of Hastings Environmental Law Association (HELA).

Outside of student organizations, Honig is involved with Hastings Law Journal (HLJ), where he currently serves as the Executive Notes Editor. He was also a Sack Teaching Fellow and research assistant for Professor David Takacs during his 2L year. Honig received a stipend for his summer internship from the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF), which awards dozens of grants each year to students who do public-interest work at non-profits and government agencies; work that would otherwise be unpaid. The grants are made possible by money raised by HPILF, and funds donated by alumni and allocated by Chancellor and Dean David Faigman.