The firm recognizes that Indian Country is in a social, economic, and political renaissance. To ensure that they are able to take advantage of today’s expanding opportunities and effectively face existing challenges, tribal governments demand high quality, sophisticated legal services where professionals are keenly aware of tribal nations’ unique legal status. Effective representation for tribal nations requires the experience and insight of seasoned Indian law practitioners. Our attorneys are led by enrolled members of federally recognized tribes who understand the importance of tribal nations in defining their own policy and legal objectives.
Our attorneys provide comprehensive legal services and public policy advice and counsel to tribal governments, tribal organizations, and other entities, and we are dedicated to providing top-notch legal services to aid tribal governments in achieving the goals they have established for their own communities. Our attorneys are guided by the central principle that tribal communities have a fundamental right to self-government and we are committed to working diligently to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the United States for the Native Nations we represent.
We have represented tribal clients in matters involving the expansion, enhancement, and protection of tribal sovereignty; the enforcement of the trust responsibility; holding the United States accountable for commitments both treaty-based and statutory; the protection of land and natural resources; federal recognition; labor relations; renewable energy development; gaming; and financing of tribal projects. We are committed to preserving, promoting, and protecting tribal sovereignty and self-determination for Indian Nations.
Our firm is unrivaled in litigation success for tribes and individual Indians. Among many other cases, we continue to represent Elouise Cobell and more than 500,000 individual Indian trust beneficiaries in Cobell v. Kempthorne, a lawsuit against the United States seeking redress for 120 years of mismanagement of trust assets belonging to individual Indian landowners. This is an exceptional case no matter what measurement one uses.
In addition to serving as class counsel in the Cobell case, our team represents tribal governments in breach of trust lawsuits against the United States for mismanagement of tribal trust assets. We represent tribes in obtaining redress for a continuing trespass on tribal land by third parties.
- Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation
Clients, law firms, and judges increasingly have recognized that appellate litigation is a specialized area of practice that requires its own set of skills and experience. Our attorneys have developed extensive appellate experience in the U.S. Department of Justice, private practice, and corporate law offices. Kilpatrick Townsend’s appellate lawyers have litigated cases in virtually every area of substantive law, including numerous Native American appeals. Among the specialized skills and experience provided by our appellate lawyers are: a fresh perspective and critical judgment as a case moves up the judicial ladder; intimate knowledge of the appellate process, procedure, and strategy; detailed familiarity with appellate courts and judges; sophisticated legal analysis; and strong written and oral advocacy skills. With the combination of our appellate and trial litigators, clients know that their full range of litigation needs, from the filing of the complaint through oral argument in the Supreme Court, can be provided by the firm. These attorneys recently joined forces to represent a Tribe amicus curiae in a challenge to the Tribe’s civil jurisdiction.
- Government Relations & Strategic Policy Advice
The firm recognizes that Tribal governments have a vested interest in monitoring developments in the federal Executive branch and Congress, as virtually every decision made on the federal level has an impact in Indian Country. Whether it is federal appropriations, homeland security, education, or health care, among other public policy issues, tribes’ government-to-government relationship with the United States requires careful representation by skilled advocates who exercise sound judgment and critical strategic planning. Our professionals have extensive experience in providing just such counsel to corporate, government, and tribal clients. We have worked on various issues that require meaningful government-to-government consultation with the Departments of the Executive Branch of the U.S. on behalf of tribal clients, including the Departments of Interior, Energy, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, Agriculture, and State. Additionally, our professionals have served as congressional staff and represented tribal organizations in international negotiations.
At the state level, our attorneys include registered lobbyists who have served in executive positions in statewide election campaigns and in state and local agencies and departments. Our state government relations practice is well positioned to serve tribes’ state and local concerns. Recently, our professionals advised a State on best practices for engaging in government-to-government relations with the tribes within the state’s borders on issues of mutual concern to governments, particularly those that implicate tribal sovereignty and self-determination, including taxation.
Our attorneys have worked with literally hundreds of governments – municipal, state, and tribal – in attaining financing for economic and other development projects. We understand that tribal governments face unique challenges in accessing capital and credit which require innovative approaches from professionals with a proven track record in providing safe and secure means to finance projects. Working hand-in-hand with our Native American Practice attorneys, our experienced finance professionals are well-suited to meet objectives in this challenging environment.
We have extensive experience in environmental and land use issues related to Indian lands. The firm has represented clients on issues related to tribal land and resources with respect to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and corresponding issues under various state laws and regulations. We have worked closely with tribes to coordinate strategy in matters involving agricultural burning, solid waste, and revisions to tribal law to address environmental concerns. Additionally, our attorneys have extensive experience in claims for natural resource damages caused by contamination from a variety of sources, including air and water pollution and hazardous and solid wastes. We understand the need to provide guidance to tribes on environmental issues related to economic deployment projects, as well as counsel on navigating through regulatory compliance and completion of Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements where necessary.
As a result of recent significant legal developments, now more than ever before, Tribes need effective and comprehensive representation in the area of labor relations. The firm has responded by establishing the Tribal Labor Relations Initiative which brings together the necessary labor and Indian legal experience to effectively service tribal clients in addressing a burgeoning area of the labor relations law. The Tribal Labor Relations Initiative represents one of the most successful gaming Tribes in the country in a case before the National Labor Relations Board, defending the Tribe’s sovereign authority to apply its own Tribal employment laws in place of federal law. In addition, the firm counsels the Tribe on campaign strategies prior to and during elections.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
Our lawyers represent clients in alternative dispute resolution proceedings and work with them to develop innovative alternatives to litigation. Business litigation handled by the firm includes general contract disputes, enforcement of creditors’ rights, securities and business fraud, trade secrets, construction contracts, professional liability, insurance coverage disputes on behalf of policyholders, telecommunications, and environmental law. The firm represents its clients in commercial arbitration cases and court proceedings to challenge or review orders of federal and state administrative boards and agencies, such as the Department of Revenue, Public Service Commission, and General Accounting Office.