Steffani is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. Steffani has devoted over two decades of her professional life to the growth and well-being of Indian Country and the exercise of sovereign rights and self-sufficiency. Steffani was named the Chickasaw Nation’s Dynamic Woman of the Year in 2011 for her significant contributions to the Nation and for serving as a role model to other Chickasaw women. Global Gaming Business Magazine named her among the 25 People to Watch in 2014 as part of the next generation of gaming industry leaders and an innovate person willing to take a chance to stay a step ahead in the Indian gaming industry. Steffani currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Steffani began her legal education in the American Indian Pre-Law Summer Institute where she received honors for Best Oral Advocate in 1992. She graduated from The American University, Washington College of Law, in Washington D.C. with a Juris Doctorate in May 1996. As a law student, she served on Editorial Board of The Journal of Gender and the Law as a Dean’s Fellow for Professor Nell J. Newton, and as a Board Member for the Nat’l Native American Law Students Association.
Prior to law school, Steffani attended Oklahoma State University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Political Science/Public Affairs, in May 1988 and George Mason University, where she received a Masters of Public Administration graduating with a 3.6 GP.
Pueblo of Pojoaque,General Counsel – 2005 to 2009 & Chief General Counsel – 2013 to 2015
Initially serving as General Counsel to the Pueblo in 2005, Steffani returned to the Pueblo after her federal appointment agreeing to serve as principle legal counsel to the Pueblo providingprofessional legal counsel and representation for the Pueblo, its agencies, departments, businesses and its members on a wide range of complex legal issues including, various aspects of tribal government, federal/tribal relations, gaming, land acquisitions, utility, water and tax law or policy, realty and housing transactions, and tribal enterprise activities. As Chief General Counsel, Steffani managed and supervised the work of the Pueblo’s Legal Department, including attorneys and support staff, and outside legal counsel.
National Indian Gaming Commission, Vice-Chairwoman – 2010 to 2012
Appointed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in October 2009, Steffani assumed her three year appointment as Vice-Chairwoman of the NIGC in January 2010. With her fellow Commissioners, Steffani set upon improving relations between Tribes and the NIGC by establishing programmatic policies driven by the government-to-government relationship between the Federal Government and Tribes. To fulfill this commitment, the Commissioners embarked upon agency actions aimed at improving tribal consultation and relationships; offering relevant and needed training and technical assistance; engaging in comprehensive regulatory review; and providing improved, fiscally responsible agency operation.
Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals, Judge Pro-Tem – Intermittently 1997 to 2009
As a Judge Pro-Tem, Steffani was responsible for applying relevant statues, rules, and laws in presiding pending before the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals (SWITCA) which offers appellate services and periodic training to member tribes.
New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, Special Counsel for Indian Affairs – 2002 to 2005
As Special Counsel for Indian Affairs, Steffani provided legal advice and assistance on a variety of matters involving and affecting Native American Tribes and communities throughout New Mexico. Steffani provided legal advice and assistance to the Indian Affairs Commission and other assigned state agencies/boards/commissions. She also reviewed Attorney General Opinions affecting Native American communities or posing significant questions of Indian law, and drafted and assisted in the negotiations of various State-Tribal agreements.
State of Oregon – Hearing Officer Panel, Hearing Officer – 2000 to 2002
As a Hearing Officer, Steffani conducted one- and two-party contested case hearings regarding initial and on-going eligibility for Medicaid, Food Stamp, and public assistance programs; overpayments to recipients and medical providers; licensing and certification of foster care providers; and entitlement to special education services. As a decision-maker, Steffani interpreted and applied complex Federal and state statutes and rules, conflicting law, and expert medical evidence.
Isleta Tribal Court, Associate Judge – 1997 to 1999
In 1997, Steffani accepted an appointment by the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Council to serve as Associate Judge. During her tenure, Steffani presided over criminal and civil dockets in court of general jurisdiction issuing orders and opinions in areas of misdemeanor criminal law, probate, juvenile law, child custody, support and visitation, and numerous other civil matters.
New Mexico Technical Vocational Institute, Part-time Instructor – 1998 to 1999
As an instructor, Steffani taught and evaluated advanced legal research and writing to students in the legal assistant program to acquire and to demonstrate proficient skills in memorandum writing, pleadings and motions.
University of New Mexico – Anderson Schools of Management, Visiting Lecturer – 1997
Taught business law course to undergraduate management students. Responsible for introductory concepts of business law such as contracts, employment law, commercial transactions, torts, constitutional and administrative law.
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation, Judicial Law Clerk – 199
Her first introduction to Tribal Courts, Steffani had the privilege of serving as a law clerk to Chief Judge Peregoy in 1995 where she researched legal issues as requested.
Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, Summer Associate – 1994
Steffani began her legal experience as a Summer Associate for a nationally recognized law firm where she researched and wrote legal memoranda on issues concerning Native American tribes. The position afforded Steffani an opportunity to gain experience working directly with a majority of the firm’s partners and associates on issues involving contract, property, tax, and gaming law.
LICENSES, CERTIFICATES & AFFILIATIONS
License – State Bar of New Mexico, 1996 to Present
Authorized to Practice in U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico
Federal Bar Association (1998 – 2001, 2009) – Indian Law Section member
Indian Law Section, NM State Bar (2003 – Present) – Chairperson 2003
New Mexico Indian Bar Assoc. (2003 – Present) – Vice-President 2003 to 2009
Certificate – Tribal Court Judges Training Seminar – National Judicial College (1997
New Mexico State Bar Leadership Training Institute (2004)
Tribal-State Workgroup on Repatriation & Sacred Places (2003–05)
Santa Fe Community Foundation, Native Amer. Advised Endowment Comm. (2005–Present)
American Bar Association (1996 – 2001) – Judicial Division member
Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals (1997-99) – Chief Judge 1998-99
New Mexico & Colorado Tribal Court Judges Assoc. (1997–99) – Vice-Pres. 1998-99
New Mexico Tribal VAWA Task Force Member (1998–99)
New Mexico Supreme Court Foster Care Task Force Member (1998–99)
New Mexico Children’s Code Revision Task Force (2004) – Native American Interface Subcommittee Chair
PUBLICATION – Comment, Treating Tribes as States Under the Federal Clean Air Act: Congressional Grant of Authority-Federal Preemption-Inherent Tribal Authority 26 N.M.L. Rev. 323 (July 1996).
Honors in Clinical Law, the University of New Mexico, 1996
Nat’l Native American Law Students Assoc., Nat’l Moot Court Competition, 1st Place 1994