Legal Hotline

The purpose of the NAJA Legal Hotline for Journalists is to serve NAJA members who meet program qualifications and want legal information and resources about freedoms of speech, press, and information, especially in Indian Country.

This “hotline” does not provide legal services or advice, but is a channel to help members contact those who can provide legal services or advice.

Certain legal services are provided for free, or pro bono, by Matthew E. Kelley (Ojibwe), an attorney at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, L.L.P., a First Amendment defense firm located in Washington, D.C.

There are also numerous attorneys and others around the United States who may be available to members as necessary.

NAJA members may access the hotline by email at:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the hotline:

Q: How does the legal hotline for journalists work?

A:  Members may send an email to  Members must identify themselves by name, home address, email, telephone number, tribal affiliation and NAJA membership status.

After membership has been confirmed, the member can then relay their issue to the intake liaison who will then contact an attorney for review and availability.  The liaison will also ensure a timely connection between member and attorney occurs.

All information relayed to the liaison and attorney is considered to be confidential, except that a general report is given regularly to the NAJA Board of Directors in order to provide basic and confidential demographic information.  This information is used to determine future needs of the service.  If new facts subsequently develop or something was missed during the initial intake session, members may contact the liaison again and go over any additional information related to the legal matter.

Q: Who is eligible to receive this service?

A:  Anyone interested in the law and ethics of journalism in Indian Country can call or email to receive helpful information, though certain free legal services from providers are available only to NAJA members. NAJA wants all journalists and their sources to know their rights and responsibilities when dealing with Native Americans.

Q: Who is eligible for the pro bono legal advice?

A: Any NAJA member in good standing can receive this advice, as long as no legal conflicts of interest exist and as long as their issues fall into the scope of the program. You have to sign an appropriate form before you are put into contact with an attorney.

Q: What type of legal issues may be discussed on the hotline?

A:  The primary focus of the hotline is law and journalism, mass communication, and communication policy in Indian Country.  Issues could include things like whether a tribal council can approve content before publication (prior restraint), how to access meetings, or who owns intellectual property created by a freelancer, etc.  Please note that the hotline is not an arena for personal legal issues that do not involve journalism, mass communication, or communication.  The main function of the legal hotline is to support NAJA members while they are doing their work when an attorney does not otherwise represent them.

Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, L.L.P., as part of the pro bono services for NAJA members, specifically can provide pre-publication counseling involving issues such as libel, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement, and freedom of information and access counseling. Members may seek to retain LSKS on other matters, or ask the hotline to connect them with other firms or attorneys, depending on the type of problem.

Q: What if my issue or question doesn’t fit into the provided services?

A:  NAJA will attempt to connect you with a provider attorney or at least educational resources about your issue.  For instance, Tom Arviso, Jr., of The Navajo Times has given permission for NAJA members to use the legal language at to work with their attorneys to create their own terms of use and conditions page for their websites.  The goal is to keep looking for help as long as help is needed.  There are attorneys across the nation who care about helping NAJA members.

Q: How much does the hotline service cost?

A:  Access to the NAJA Legal Hotline for Journalists is free as an added benefit to NAJA membership. However, If members choose to retain an attorney beyond available free services, they are responsible for arranging payment with the attorney.

Q: How did the NAJA Legal Hotline begin?

A: Since its creation, the Native American Journalists Association has served as a way for members to gain encouragement and knowledge as they battle free press issues.

Tribal governments have fired members.  Access to meetings and records has been restricted. Many times, tribal governments, even those with free press protections in their constitutions, have carried out these actions.  Legal representation can become expensive and at times, NAJA members have personally defended their own rights in court.

Leaders like Richard LaCourse (Yakama) lobbied decades ago for the creation of the free legal hotline.  Thus, NAJA leaders felt this service was long overdue.

Q: Who is responsible for the work of an attorney?

A: Once a NAJA member has retained an attorney or law firm for representation, professional ethics prohibit NAJA from discussing your legal issue. Also, the attorney or law firm a member hires, and not the “Native American Journalists Association” or ITS AGENTS, SERVANTS AND EMPLOYEES, will be responsible to you for the work your retained attorney or law firm does for any member or the outcome achieved.