Our Practice

Tribal Codes

A regular part of our practice is assisting tribes in the exercise of their sovereign authority to develop tribal law through tribal codes, ordinances, and regulations. Our work in this area has covered a wide array of issues. In addition to assisting tribes in evaluating and preparing revisions or amendments to tribal constitutions, we have also assisted tribes in the development of rules of procedure for tribal courts, criminal codes, extradition procedures, enrollment ordinances, election procedures, gaming ordinances, domestic relations laws, probate laws, landlord-tenant law, highway regulations, hunting and fishing rules and regulations, tribal personnel policies and procedures, tribal tax laws, business license codes, and environmental protection laws, including those necessary to establish "treatment as states" status under the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, as well as those needed to address local environmental issues such as waste disposal, underground storage tanks and pesticides.

Our work in assisting tribes in developing tribal codes has also included assisting the tribes in protecting their sovereign authority to enforce tribal law. We have done this through litigation in which tribal jurisdiction and authority has been challenged in cases, such as Wetsit v. Stafne, 44 F.3d 823 (9th Cir. 1995), Michigan v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 581 F.3d 524 (7th Cir. 2009), and by participation as amicus in cases such as State of Montana v. E.P.A., 137 F.3d 1135 (9th Cir. 1998).  Other litigation challenging a tribe’s authority to tax utilities that used tribal reservation lands, see Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co. v. Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, 323 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2003),was successfully resolved by a settlement agreement.  We have actively worked with tribes in presenting these issues before Congress in the interests of securing Congressional confirmation of the tribes' sovereign authority.