American Indian Law & Policy

Brownstein has unparalleled skill and experience required to solve any challenge in the complex field of Indian law and policy. Our professionals have worked with tribes and on tribal issues for decades while in Congress, the Administration, in private practice, and while serving as in-house tribal counsel. From experience, we understand and appreciate the unique sovereignty of tribal nations, and the complex jurisdictional, legal, legislative, regulatory and contractual issues that underpin this sovereignty.  Tribal matters often require interactions with executive branch officials, Congress, state legislatures and government agencies, including the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).  Our contacts and substantive experience in this field are second to none.

Brownstein’s Indian Law and Policy bi-partisan practice encompasses a broad range of services, including legal, legislative, and administrative matters relating to:

  • Natural Resources
  • Water Rights, including water settlements
  • Lands-Into-Trust
  • Tribal Gaming
  • Land Exchanges
  • Energy and Project Development
  • Project Development
  • Tribal Sovereignty issues, including tribal labor sovereignty and tax matters
  • Indian Health Care
  • Tribal law enforcement

Our experience ranges from working on particular decisions and opinions that impact specific Tribes to measures that have broad application for Indian Country. With offices throughout the West and in Washington, D.C., we understand the political, economic and social ramifications of federal and state governmental actions in Indian country and on Indian tribes, and apply that knowledge to our work for and with Tribes. 

Representative Matters
  • Organized and led coalition of third parties to successfully block a federal decision that would have negatively impacted tribal client’s business interests.

  • Provide federal representation to an Indian tribe in connection with the federal legislation, which ratifies the tribe's water compact and authorizes federal funding for the tribe's water-related infrastructure projects. (PL.114-322)

  • Represented Native American tribe before the Bureau of Indian Affairs on an issue related to off-reservation policy and gaming. Also worked with Congressional appropriators to secure support for loan guarantees of economic development projects.

  • Water rights counsel for a resort and golf courses in the Coachella Valley leasing tribal lands in state and federal litigation involving the golf courses' use of groundwater, payment of groundwater replenishments to a local groundwater agency and exercise of Indian reserved water rights.

  • Represented bwin party digital entertainment plc in the California online poker services agreement with United Auburn Indian Community.

  • Represented Global Cash Access, Inc. in connection with its acquisition of Western Money Systems, a manufacturer and distributor of redemption kiosk devices to more than 200 casinos nationwide. Brownstein handled the corporate due diligence materials, drafted and negotiated the stock purchase agreement. The firm handled the gaming and licensing process for Global Cash Access in more than 20 states and 60 Native American tribal nations.

  • Represent a Nevada Indian tribe as outside general counsel. We have represented the tribe in a number of large scale development projects, including the development of a 200 MW concentrated solar project in southern Nevada. Our representation included the negotiation of lease and other agreements with a large renewable energy developer, development of water rights for the project, negotiation with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies, and guiding the tribe through the NEPA process. Legal work also included the development of a sales and use tax regulatory structure for the tribe.

  • Represented Hard Rock Hotel Holdings, LLC in connection with the licensing of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa, an Indian casino owned by the Cherokee Nation, and the Hard Rock Hotel and Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque, an Indian casino owned by the Pueblo of Isleta.

  • Represented a town with substantial groundwater rights in Nevada's Carson River Valley with regard to water rights litigation commenced by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians. Litigation included challenges to State Engineer rulings on water right change applications for new development. Cases were filed in both federal district and state district courts and involved issues of jurisdiction and venue in addition to substantive water law. Appeals were filed by the Tribe in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nevada Supreme Court.

News & Events

Meet The Team

Ryan A. Smith Shareholder T 202.747.0507 rsmith@bhfs.com
Lawrence J. Jensen Shareholder T 202.747.0509 ljensen@bhfs.com
Hal Stratton Shareholder T 505.724.9596 hstratton@bhfs.com
Jennifer Carleton Shareholder T 702.464.7086 jcarleton@bhfs.com
Albert Z. Kovacs Shareholder T 702.464.7076 akovacs@bhfs.com
Stephanie Osler Hastings Shareholder T 805.882.1415 shastings@bhfs.com
Elizabeth M. Gore Policy Director T 202.872.5296 egore@bhfs.com