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Litigation
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.

Many of the cases handled by members of the Firm have resulted in reported decisions. Examples of those reported decisions are shown in the list of Representative Cases. One of those cases was a class action brought on behalf of Navajo allottees in New Mexico to invalidate the federal government's reservation of minerals in the allotment trust patents. After the federal attorney was found to have intentionally obstructed justice in that case, see Mescal v. United States, 161 F.R.D. 450 (D.N.M. 1995), the case was settled, and the class of approximately 15,000 Navajo individuals obtained supplemental trust patents relinquishing the federal mineral reservation over about 700 square miles of mineral-rich land in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. Two cases that went to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals twice resulted in decisions requiring mineral developers to exhaust tribal remedies in challenges to tribal taxation, resulting in settlements in favor of the tribal nation. See Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Co. v. Watchman, 52 F.3d 1531 (10th Cir. 1995); Texaco, Inc. v. Hale, 81 F.3d 934 (10th Cir. 1996). A case brought by the EEOC challenging the Navajo Nation's right to condition entry onto its lands by requiring tribe-specific employment preferences was heard by the Ninth Circuit for the third time, with the Navajo Nation once again prevailing. See EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co., No. 2:01-cv-1050 JWS, 2012 WL 5034276 (D. Az. Oct. 18, 2012), aff'd, 773 F.3d 977 (9th Cir. 2014). The Firm has successfully litigated complex environmental litigation for tribal clients, including a case in the Ninth Circuit contesting the surreptitious removal of remains and funerary objects from tribal lands by the National Park Service, Navajo Nation v. United States Dep't of the Interior, 819 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir. 2016) and a case challenging the sufficiency of an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, Diné Care v. United States Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, 643 Fed. Appx. 799 (10th Cir. 2016) (agreeing with the firm's client, a tribally owned energy company, that the District Court's opinions and orders in favor of environmental plaintiffs should be vacated and the case dismissed); see also, El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. United States, 750 F.3d 863 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (accepting various positions of intervenor Navajo Nation in case involving radioactive and hazardous wastes on Navajo lands.)

Other cases are not reported but may have similar importance. These include the successful challenge by the Navajo Nation to the siting of an asbestos dump at the foot of Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle, a sacred mountain of the Nation, the eviction of businesses operating on Native lands without leases and the successful defense in State court of a Native American county commissioner in a suit brought by a fellow commissioner. One case, decided by the Interior Board of Land Appeals in 2012, had its genesis in federal coal prospecting permits granted around 1970 in the "checkerboard" area of Navajo Indian country, and the IBLA finally upheld the Navajo position that no leases could lawfully be issued there. Thermal Energy Co., 183 IBLA 126 (2012).
10400 Academy Rd. N.E., Suite 310, Albuquerque, NM 87111Ph (505) 296-9400 • Fax (505) 296-9401

 



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