Federal Indian Law

Practice Overview

The Tribal Nations Practice Group at Drummond has over 30 years of experience representing tribes and businesses dealing with tribes in litigation matters in the federal, state, and tribal courts and before federal administrative agencies across the country.  We have won cases for our Tribal nation clients in disputes concerning gaming transactions and IGRA compacts, state jurisdiction, environmental matters, employment, and federal trust responsibilities.   Some examples of reported cases (and our role) are as follows:

Reported Cased (Selected):

United States Supreme Court

  • Yellin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, 141 S. Ct. 2434 (2021) (counsel for National Congress of American Indians and ten other national and regional inter-tribal organizations as amici curiae) (question presented: whether private Alaska Native Corporations are “Indian tribes” entitled to allocation of federal COVID-19 relief funds; D.C. Circuit decision in favor of tribes reversed)
  • Inyo County v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community, 538 U.S. 701 (2003) (co-counsel for amicus curiae, National Congress of American Indians and seventeen Indian tribes) (question presented: whether tribal sovereignty barred state court subpoenas; merits not reached; tribe could not bring action as a “person” under 42 U.S.C. section 1983)

United States Circuit Courts of Appeals

  • Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Mnuchin, 976 F.3d 15 (D.C. Cir. 2020), cert. granted (Jan. 8, 2021) (see cases before United States Supreme Court)
  • Penobscot Nation and United States v. Maine Attorney General, 2021 WL 2850139 (1st Cir. 2021) (en banc), petition for writ of certiorari to Supreme Court pending) (co-counsel for Penobscot Nation) (question presented: whether Penobscot Indian Reservation encompasses the Penobscot River)
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, 788 F.3d 537 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 2508 (2016) (counsel for Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) (NLRB prevailed before a divided panel on whether tribal labor law varying from the National Labor Relations Act may be struck down by the NLRB as an unfair labor practice; subsequent Sixth Circuit panel agreed with the dissenting opinion, see Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort v. N.L.R.B., 791 F.3d 648 (6th Cir. 2015))
  • TOMAC v. Norton, 433 F.3d 852 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (counsel for Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians; prevailing in action challenging the right of the Band to have land taken into trust for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act)
  • Penobscot Nation v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 254 F.3d 317 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1127 (2001) (counsel for Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe) (question presented: whether federal district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the Nation’s action to prevent coercive state action on the basis of tribal sovereignty; merits not reached)
  • Penobscot Nation v. Fellencer, 164 F.3d 706 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1022 (1999) (counsel for Penobscot Nation; prevailing on tribal sovereignty defense to employment discrimination claims)
  • Akins v. Penobscot Nation, 130 F.3d 482 (1st Cir. 1997) (counsel for Penobscot Nation; prevailing on tribal sovereignty defense to civil rights claims)

United States District Courts

  • Rassi v. Fed. Program Integrators, LLC, 69 F. Supp. 3d 288 (D. Me. 2014) (counsel for the defendant; prevailing on tribal exhaustion doctrine)

State Supreme Courts

  • Moyant v. Petit and Passamaquoddy Tribe, 2021 ME 13, 247 A.3d 326 (counsel for defendants; securing exclusive tribal court jurisdiction over contract and tort claims)
  • Francis v. Dana-Cummings, 962 A.2d 944 (Me. 2008) (counsel for defendants; prevailing on tribal sovereignty defense to state court trespass action; state court lacked jurisdiction over “internal tribal matter”)
  • TOMAC v. State of Michigan, 685 N.W.2d 221 (Mich. 2004) (co-counsel for Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, amicus curiae; prevailing on validity of tribal-state gaming compact)
  • Great Northern Paper, Inc. v. Penobscot Nation, 770 A.2d 574 (Me.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1019 (2001) (counsel for Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe; partially prevailing on tribal sovereignty defense to state statutory claims)

For more information regarding our work with Tribal Nations click here to view our practice overview.

Practice Group Leader

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