Ryan A. Smith

Ryan A. Smith



Chair of the firm’s American Indian Law & Policy Group. Represents tribal nations, those doing business with tribes and western water districts. Proven ability to resolve natural resource and water disputes before Congress and the Department of the Interior.

Ryan Smith represents tribes, water districts and corporations before Congress, the Department of the Interior and the courts on tribal issues and Western natural resource issues. He has significant government and private practice experience working on matters relating to Indian water rights; Colorado River and western water issues; lands into trust; and tribal gaming issues.

Ryan has been the lead on several major Indian water settlements, ushering a number of settlements through Congress while serving in government and in private practice. In addition, he has been instrumental in the development of federal policy relating to western natural resources the Colorado River, water management and federal funding for Indian country.

Before joining Brownstein, Ryan served as a senior legislative advisor to former Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on water and tribal issues and served as deputy counsel for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, advising the state of Arizona on Colorado River, tribal and water banking matters.

Representative Matters

Recent Experience

  • On behalf of a coalition of Colorado water districts, was successful in securing passage of federal legislation that secured federal funding for the Upper Colorado and San Juan Fish recovery programs.

  • Worked to reestablish the reservation of a tribal nation in California after it was wrongfully terminated by the federal government by securing federal legislation that placed land into trust for the benefit of the tribe.

  • Secured passage of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, which authorized over $210 million in federal funding for the Navajo Nation for drinking water projects on the Navajo Reservation.

  • Successfully represented the Blackfeet Nation before Congress and the Department of the Interior in connection with the tribe’s water rights settlement with the federal government and the State of Montana, which authorized more than $470 million in federal and state funding for the tribe. In addition, secured an amendment to the settlement legislation to provide the tribe with early access to the funds.

Insights & Publications



  • J.D., 1998, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • B.A., 1995, Arizona State University, magna cum laude

Previous Experience

Senior Legislative Advisor, U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

Deputy Counsel, Arizona Department of Water Resources

Counsel, Arizona Water Banking Authority

Associate, Robbins & Green, P.A. (now part of Jennings Strouss & Salmon), Phoenix


  • District of Columbia
  • Arizona
  • U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Columbia



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