The Firm handles litigation in federal, tribal, and state courts. Often, this litigation is complex, involving difficult questions of tribal jurisdiction, tribal sovereignty, relations with the federal and state governments, land and mineral rights, and application of federal and state law to activities taking place on tribal lands.
Employment law in Indian country involves application of relevant tribal law and questions of applicability and operation of federal and, occasionally, state law. The foundational question in these cases can implicate fundamental tribal sovereign authority to exclude and to condition entry of nonmembers (including nonmember companies) on their agreement to prefer qualified tribal members over others in hiring and lay-off decisions.
Federal Indian Law
Federal Indian law spans all aspects of life in Indian country. Federal Indian law includes the laws of the Native Nations themselves. Many legal issues are and should be governed solely by the law of the tribal nation with exclusive jurisdiction over internal tribal matters, but these tribal prerogatives are always in danger of being eroded.
Natural Resources and Environmental Law
In addition to experience generally in permitting and leasing of tribal restricted lands and tribal trust resources, the Firm represents the largest tribal land owner in the United States, and several of its economic enterprises, in transactions and litigation related to the ownership and development of the tribe's oil, gas and coal, as well as the environmental legacy of uranium development on the tribe's lands.
Tribal Telecommunications and Broadband
There are substantial obstacles to the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure on tribal lands (including broadband), because of high build-out costs, sparsely-populated areas, right-of-way and permitting complications from federal oversight, limited financial resources that deter competition and investment by telecommunications providers, and, in some cases, a deficit of technical expertise and capacity within tribal governments.
The Firm has decades of combined experience assisting its corporate clients (mainly tribally owned entities) with general corporate affairs and related commercial and contract law. The Firm has been instrumental in organizing and establishing federally chartered Section 17 and tribally chartered corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships. We work with Boards of Directors and Management Boards in developing governing documents for these businesses, including articles of incorporation, articles of organization, bylaws, operating agreements and plans of operation, and in complying with corporate formalities and observing fiduciary duties.
The Firm handles tribal taxation issues on the federal, state and tribal levels. Members of the Firm, together with the largest Indian tribe and its federally chartered corporation, filed an amicus brief in the case of Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Chickasaw Nation, 515 U.S. 450 (1995). The brief supported the position that the State of Oklahoma could not impose its gasoline excise tax directly on the Chickasaw Nation's tribally owned gas station. The Supreme Court adopted the position and reasoning of the Frye brief in a unanimous opinion on that point, which served as the impetus for various Indian tribes to develop and implement fuel excise taxes.
The Firm also assists its clients with government-to-government relationships with federal and state governments and their agencies, supporting tribal sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-determination.