Dorsay & Easton LLP, Indian Law, Home Page
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Practice Areas

Dorsay & Easton LLP limits its practice exclusively to the field of Indian affairs. This practice includes a broad range of subjects and activities. Our experience in these practice areas is described briefly below.

 Representation of Tribal Governments

We currently serve as tribal attorney for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and the Samish Indian Nation.  We also represent other tribal governments and tribal entities on discrete issues and projects throughout the Pacific Northwest.

General representation of tribal governments includes attending most Tribal Council and many other tribal meetings, advising the Tribal Council on any legal issues that might arise, representing the Tribe before the State and Federal Government, working with tribal administration on contracting, personnel, and general legal issues, representing the Tribe in federal, state and tribal courts, advising the Tribe on economic development issues and working with the Tribe or tribal economic development entities to start and operate economic development ventures, gaming issues, and any other issue that might arise where our services are requested. Representation of tribal governments requires extensive knowledge of both Indian law and the field of law involved in a particular legal matter.

 Indian Gaming

Dorsay & Easton has extensive experience in the field of Indian gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. We represent Chinook Winds Casino Resort, operated by the Siletz Tribe, and Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, operated by the Klamath Tribes. We also represent the Samish Tribe on gaming matters and their plans to establish and operate a casino near Anacortes, Washington. We have negotiated Gaming Compacts with the States of Oregon and Washington, have litigated several cases in the federal courts interpreting IGRA, have successfully defended tribes against National Indian Gaming Commission notices of violations and sanctions, and participated in Compact dispute resolution with the State of Oregon. We advise tribal gaming commissions on their regulatory authority and actions. We review and negotiate a wide range of gaming-related contracts, and negotiate and advise on casino, hotel and golf course construction and financial arrangements. We deal with a broad range of personnel and personal injury disputes involving tribal casinos, and advise tribal gaming operations on unionization issues.

 Natural Resources

Dorsay & Easton advises tribal clients on a wide range of natural resources issues, including treaty hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights, inter-governmental agreements on resource protection, transferring lands to tribes in conservation protection status, BPA wildlife mitigation agreements and funding, environmental protection and mitigation, forest management harvest and contractual issues, and environmental reviews of tribal actions and properties.

 Indian Child Welfare Act

We have extensive experience representing Indian tribes, parents, and children in over 20 different states in cases arising under the Indian Child Welfare Act. We have represented over 15 different tribes in complex ICWA cases. The firm specializes in handling difficult ICWA litigation at any level.

In addition to providing legal representation, Craig Dorsay and Lea Ann Easton also provide training on the ICWA to a wide variety of groups including state and tribal court judges, tribal social services departments, attorneys and child advocacy groups. We also provide consulting services to various agencies and entities involved in child welfare issues under the ICWA including the National Indian Child Welfare Act Association, the National Resource Center on Children and the Law, and the American Bar Association. 

Craig Dorsay provides technical assistance and legal advice in tribal implementation of Title IV-E, either contracting directly with the Department of Health and Human Services to directly run a Title IV-E program or sub-contracting with the State to provide the Tribe’s share of IV-E services. Title IV-E implementation includes review and amendment of tribal codes, review and modification of social service department policies and procedures, review and modification of tribal court rules and procedures, and educating Tribal Councils to obtain passage of necessary changes to tribal laws, policies and procedures.

 Indian Housing

We provide advice and assistance to Indian tribes, tribal housing departments and Tribally Designated Housing Entities on implementation and compliance with the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), landlord-tenant issues, and personnel and administrative situations.

 Litigation

Dorsay & Easton specializes in complex litigation involving Indian law issues, primarily in federal courts. We recently completed nine years litigating an attempt to re-open the Samish Tribe’s 1970’s off-reservation treaty fishing rights, including multiple trips to the Ninth Circuit. We litigated several cases for Samish in federal district court over Indian Self-Determination Act funding, and have been before the Court of Claims and Federal Circuit Court of Appeals twice regarding the Samish Tribe’s entitlement to federal funding and benefits for the 27 years the Tribe was wrongfully denied federal recognition. Craig Dorsay and Lea Ann Easton litigated two IGRA issues for the Siletz Tribe through the Ninth Circuit, one involving off-reservation land into trust for gaming and the other Compact interpretation. Craig argued Smith v. Employment Division, the Native American Church peyote case, before the United States Supreme Court. We have litigated numerous ICWA cases in several state appellate courts. We are currently involved in litigating a fuel tax compact dispute involving a Yakama Nation fuel distributor. The firm has defended tribal hunting and fishing rights in state and federal court, and has litigated a number of tribal sovereign immunity cases in different courts.

 Jurisdiction Issues

Lea Ann Easton and Craig Dorsay have advised several tribes and are litigating a number of cases involving tribal successorship, namely, which historical tribes a modern day tribe is the legal and political successor to. We routinely defend tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction against federal, state, local and private intrusion. We are currently involved in several efforts to establish and defend tribal history and aboriginal territory against attempted incursion by other tribes. Jurisdiction issues include law enforcement and regulatory authority, retained sovereign jurisdiction, and the interface of state and federal law and regulations with tribal laws and sovereignty. The firm has also advised and litigated on Public Law 280 jurisdiction issues.

 Business and Financial Agreements with Tribes

Dorsay & Easton handle financing for tribal clients with both private and institutional lenders, for between $500,000 and $45 million. These financing agreements have involved casino construction, financing and operational agreements, tribal land purchases, and business investments by tribes. The firm has negotiated and advised its tribal clients on numerous contracts with businesses and providers, in both small and large amounts. The firm provides legal advice to its tribal clients on economic development and business investment the tribe is considering. In addition, the firm has advised private businesses seeking to do business with tribes that this firm does not represent, so long as those business clients agree to respect the tribe’s sovereignty and authority. Tribes doing business with private entities or businesses have asked this firm to advise those businesses in a number of matters where existing legal counsel for the entities lacks experience in Indian law and tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty.

 Environmental Protection and Mitigation

Dorsay & Easton has negotiated and provided legal advice on complex environmental protection and mitigation agreements with public and private agencies. The firm helped negotiate a conservation trust with federal, state and private environmental organizations arising out of the “New Carissa” contamination settlement whereby 7000 acres of forest land was transferred to ownership of the Siletz Tribe under the condition that the Tribe, through a trust arrangement, manage the property primarily for marbled murrelet habitat enhancement. The firm has also been involved in wildlife mitigation negotiations with the Bonneville Power Administration for purchase and operation of wildlife mitigation sites within the Siletz Tribe’s historical territory. We assisted the Samish Indian Nation on obtaining Huckleberry Island in the San Juan Islands from the State of Washington under a similar conservation arrangement. The firm advises its tribal clients on hazardous waste, NEPA, and other environmental matters.

 Indian Self-Determination Act

We provide advice to tribal clients on Indian Self Determination Act contracts and annual funding agreements including the Siletz Tribe’s transition to Self-Governance. We have helped negotiate annual funding agreements and has commented and participated actively in legislative and regulatory changes to PL 93-638 as well as litigating issues arising under the ISDEA, Title XX, Title IV-B, and General Assistance. 

 Inter-Governmental Agreements

The firm’s tribal clients interact extensively with state, federal, and local governments. The firm has assisted the Siletz Tribe in negotiating jurisdiction, law enforcement, and impact mitigation (in lieu) agreements with a number of surrounding jurisdictions. The firm assisted the Tribe in negotiating water and sewer agreements with surrounding municipalities and water districts. The firm negotiated similar agreements for the Samish Tribe as well as cultural resources and hunting agreements with the State. The firm has negotiated cigarette, alcohol, and fuel tax agreements with the States for its tribal clients.

 Land into Trust / Land Acquisition and Title

Firm partners have been involved in fee-to-trust issues on behalf of tribes for over 25 years and have litigated several fee-to-trust cases in the federal courts. The firm has participated actively in proposed regulatory changes to the fee-to-trust process. It is also actively involved in Carcieri issues on behalf of tribal clients. The firm provides advice on tribal land acquisitions, including title and environmental issues. Dorsay and Easton provides frequent advice to tribes, and sometimes to local governments, on the gaming-related fee-to-trust process. The firm has litigated Section 20 IGRA off-reservation land into trust issues in the federal courts.