Our Indian Law Practice Areas
Supreme Court Litigation
On behalf of tribal clients we have briefed and argued on the merits eight cases before the United States Supreme Court relating to treaty fishing and hunting rights, taxation, mineral rights and tribal jurisdiction.
We have represented tribal and other Native clients in complex litigation in federal, state and tribal courts regarding issues such as: tribal governmental authority and jurisdiction, state authority and jurisdiction, sovereign immunity, taxation, breach of trust, natural resource development, water rights, federally protected species, protection of cultural properties, repatriation of human remains, and environmental protection.
Environmental Protection, Compliance, and Permitting
We have assisted tribal clients with development and implementation of environmental protection programs to control air pollution, water pollution, and oil spills; manage solid waste and hazardous waste and remediate contaminated sites; tribal environmental laws and regulations; and applications for treatment as a state under federal environmental laws. We have also represented tribes in efforts to challenge and mitigate adverse environmental impacts of projects on and near their reservations and enforce tribal, state, and federal environmental laws. Our work in this and other areas of our Indian practice frequently involves intergovernmental relations on tribal, federal, state and local levels.
We have assisted tribal clients in legislative matters before Congress and state legislatures, leading to the enactment of laws addressing our clients' needs. Our work has included preparation of testimony before legislative committees and drafting and lobbying for proposed legislation. We are registered lobbyists under the Federal Lobbying Act.
We have represented tribal clients in multiple water rights adjudications and negotiations, prepared tribal water codes, and advised tribal water regulatory agencies. We have negotiated, drafted and shepherded through Congress a bill which settled the water rights claims of a tribal client.
Economic Development (including Gaming)
We have negotiated and drafted documents for complex economic development projects and commercial transactions, including powerplants, cement plants and other industrial projects, and have prepared taxation ordinances and economic enterprise charters. We advise tribes on business opportunities with an emphasis on the legal advantages to doing business on reservations. We have formed a variety of tribally controlled business organizations including Section 17 Corporations under the Indian Reorganization Act. We also have represented tribes in negotiating and implementing gaming compacts and related transactions.
Natural Resource Development
The firm has substantial expertise with respect to on-reservation natural resources, including conceiving, negotiating and drafting leading-edge development agreements.
Oil and Gas
The firm has been involved in the negotiation of tribal oil and gas agreements and has provided tax and business advice on such transactions. We have also succeeded in recovering large amounts in tribal taxes and royalties under those agreements.
The firm has provided services to preserve tribes’ rights to protect cultural resources and sites, and to enforce rights under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and National Historic Preservation Act.
Breach of Trust
The firm has special expertise in cases brought against the United States for breach of fiduciary duty for mismanagement of tribal trust funds and trust resources, including oil and gas, timber, and sand and gravel. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate our clients for such mismanagement and have helped set important precedent in this area.
The firm has provided a wide range of legal services to our tribal clients pertaining to governmental and municipal functions. We have drafted tribal constitutions, codes and ordinances, including law and order codes, zoning and land use ordinances, fish and game laws, water codes, environmental control regulations, mortgage codes, probate codes, public health codes and employment rights ordinances. We regularly advise tribes regarding the implementation of such laws.
The firm has advised tribal clients on matters involving international treaties governing natural resources, including representation of the Makah Tribe at meetings of the International Whaling Commission since the mid-1990s. The firm also represents the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in the domestic review process regarding the Columbia River Treaty.
Preferences in Contracting and Employment
The firm has developed tribal ordinances and contractual arrangements for Native American preferences in government contracting and in nearby industrial subcontracting and employment. We have assisted in gaining SBA minority small business classification and preferences under the Indian Self-Determination Act and other federal laws.
The firm has helped tribes prepare and implement employment handbooks and policies, and has defended them against claims brought by employees, including claims for unpaid wages, breach of employment contract, wrongful discharge and discrimination.
Tax and Probate Matters
The firm has special expertise regarding taxation of Native American organizations and individuals. We have negotiated tax agreements with major corporations that provided large economic returns to our Native American clients. We have represented individual Native American clients in federal and state tax disputes. We are experienced in Indian probate matters before Department of the Interior probate judges and other federal administrative agencies. We also have advised tribes seeking to purchase interests in allotted land at probate and draft tribal probate codes.