Kaighn Smith, Jr.

Attorney

Kaighn Smith, Jr.

Attorney

Phone: 207.253.0559 Fax: 207.772.3627 Email: ksmith@dwmlaw.com

84 Marginal Way, Suite 600 Portland, ME 04101-2480

Assistant: Jennifer Leonard Email: jleonard@dwmlaw.com

About

Kaighn “has an outstanding reputation. He is a nationally prominent practitioner
in [the field of Native American law].”
Chambers USA

Kaighn Smith Jr. has been fighting for Tribal Nations and their enterprises in the tribal, federal, and state courts and before federal administrative agencies across the country for over 25 years.  He has garnered a national reputation for his committed advocacy for tribal sovereignty, winning cases in a wide range of areas, including jurisdiction disputes, gaming matters, labor and employment relations, and land-in-trust and environmental matters.  He regularly teaches federal Indian law as an adjunct professor, publishes articles in peer-reviewed law journals, and speaks at national conferences.

Kaighn’s recent cases include representing the National Congress of American Indians and ten other inter-tribal organizations before the Supreme Court as amici curiae in Yellin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, to fight for the allocation of COVID-19 relief funds to tribal governments. He represented the Penobscot Nation for 12 years in protracted federal court litigation over the Nation’s reservation hunting and fishing rights in the Penobscot River.

Kaighn is particularly well-known for his advocacy of tribal sovereignty in the area of labor and employment regulation.  He is the author of the leading treatise, Labor and Employment Law in Indian Country (2022), jointly published with the Native American Rights Fund, the new edition of which has just been released.

Kaighn is listed in national independent peer-based attorney guides, including Best Lawyers in America.  Chambers USA has awarded Kaighn its highest national ranking for his Native American Law practice, listing him among the top practitioners (Band 1) in the United States.

Kaighn is an elected member of the American Law Institute, and from 2012 to 2021 served as Associate Reporter (with Professors Matthew Fletcher and Wenona Singel) in drafting the ALI’s recently approved Restatement of the Law of American Indians.

In 2021, Cornell Law School awarded Kaighn its Distinguished Practitioner in Residence Fellowship.  While at Cornell, he designed and taught The Law and Colonization in Indian Country and supervised students on research and conference programming on Indigenous nations and climate change.

Education

University of Maine School of Law, J.D., 1986

University of Sussex, M. Phil., with honors, 1983

University of California Berkeley, B.S., phi beta kappa, 1979

Judicial Clerkships

Hon. Frank M. Coffin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Hon. Louis Scolnik, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

Representative Clients & Matters

  • Yellin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, 141 S. Ct. 2434 (2021) (whether Alaska Native Corporations entitled to CARES Act Funds targeted for tribal governments; representing the National Congress of American Indians and ten other inter-tribal organizations)
  • Penobscot Nation and United States v. Maine Attorney General, et als, 3 F.4th 484 (1st Cir. 2021) (hunting and fishing rights; reservation boundaries)
  • Moyant v. Petit, 2021 ME 13, 247 A.3d 326 (securing exclusive tribal court jurisdiction over contract and tort claims)
  • Rassi v. Federal Program Integrators, 69 F.Supp.3d 288 (D. Me. 2014) (securing tribal court exhaustion)
  • Francis v. Dana-Cummings, 962 A.2d 944 (Me. 2008) (securing exclusive tribal court jurisdiction over tort claims)
  • Taxpayers of Michigan Against Casinos v. State of Michigan, 732 N.W.2d 487 (Mich. 2007) (securing compact validity)
  • TOMAC v. Norton, 433 F.3d 852 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (securing land into trust)
  • Inyo County, California, et al. v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community, 538 U.S. 701 (2003) (amicus brief team)
  • Penobscot Nation v. Fellencer, 164 F.3d 706 (1st Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1022 (1999) (securing exclusive tribal jurisdiction over civil rights dispute; freedom from application of state law)
  • Akins v. Penobscot Nation, 130 F.3d 482 (1st Cir. 1997) (securing exclusive tribal jurisdiction over civil rights dispute; freedom from application of federal and state law)

Recognition

Best Lawyers USA, Native American Law 2008-2022

New England Super Lawyers, Native American Law, Employment & Labor 2011-2021

Chambers USA, Nationwide, Native American Law

Martindale Hubbell, BV Distinguished

Memberships

American Law Institute, 2007-present

Maine Bar Foundation, 2005-present

Maine Bar Journal
Editorial Advisory Committee, 1989-2001/ Chief Editor, 1999-2001

Edward T. Ginoux Inns of Court
Senior Attorney, 1999-2001

Maine State Bar Association

Community/Public Service

University of Michigan School of Law, Legal Issues in Tribal Economic Development
Adjunct Professor

Cornell School of Law, The Law and Colonization in Indian Country
Distinguished Practitioner in Residence Fellow

University of Maine School of Law, American Indian Law
Adjunct Professor

National Ski Patrol, Sugarloaf Mountain; Stub Taylor, Pat Murphy Award (2008)
Alpine Patroller (1998-2010)

Portland Public Library Board of Trustees
Member (2003-2010)

Portland Public Library Executive Director Search Committee
Chair (2005)

Past Presentations

From November 5, 2021 9:00 am

“Comments on The Restatement of the Law of American Indians,” 2021 Wisconsin Law Review Symposium: The Restatement of The Law of American Indians, University of Wisconsin Law School

From October 15, 2021 9:00 am

“Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation,” Federal Bar Association (Minnesota and New Mexico Chapters), 2021 Indian Law Seminar: Reconnecting Our Sovereign Nations, Mystic Lake, WI

From October 5, 2021 12:00 pm

“The Restatement of the Law of American Indians,” State Bar Association of Michigan, American Indian Law Section (Ails), 2021 Alis Annual Meeting, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, MI

From June 3, 2021 12:00 pm

“The Sovereign Immunity (or not) of Tribal Officials,” Federal Bar Association, Indian Law Conference (Virtual)

From October 9, 2019 12:00 pm

Tribal Employment and #MeToo, TICA Indigenous Law Conference

From April 24, 2019 9:00 am

Tribal In-House Counsel Association, Sovereign Immunity and Tribal Enterprises, The Fundamentals

From April 24, 2019 9:00 am

Tribal In-House Counsel Association, Sovereign Immunity and Tribal Enterprises, The Fundamentals

From November 15, 2018 9:00 am

Professional Responsibility & Ethical Obligations, 15th Annual ILPC/TICA Indigenous Law Conference

From November 2, 2018 1:00 pm

Litigating Indian Law Issues on Appeal in the Federal and State Courts, Conference Materials: “Unique Considerations at Play,” Federal Bar Association, Indian Law Conference

From October 21, 2018 9:00 am

NCAI Annual Convention Panelist on Economic Success and Tribal Employment Laws

From August 21, 2017 8:00 am

The Tribal Human Resources Professionals Certification (THRP) Summit

From May 3, 2017 12:00 am

Tribal Nation Employee Liability and Sovereign Immunity

From March 17, 2017 9:00 am

Indian Gaming in the 21st Century

Admissions