Practice/Industry Group Overview
Lane Powell is a leading Pacific Northwest law firm in the complex practice of Native American Indian Law, with skilled attorneys helping tribes in a wide range of jurisdictional and economic matters. This level of expertise in tribal law requires specific knowledge of the web of federal treaties, laws and regulations that apply to Indian tribes, Indian case law, as well as the many laws, regulations and constitutions individual tribes have adopted.
Current legal issues of major importance to Northwest tribes include federal recognition of tribal status, tax and jurisdictional issues, maximizing eligibility for federal programs, grants and other funding, and placement of land into trust status, which can lead to significant economic opportunities. Tribes benefit from Lane Powell’s proven breadth of experience across many practice areas, including real estate, renewable energy, environmental law, taxation, securities and related areas of business law pertinent to tribes as they seek to solidify their economic independence and governmental autonomy.
Lane Powell attorneys are knowledgeable of historical Indian law and experienced in handling with diplomacy potential disputes between tribes, as well as disputes between tribes and federal or state governments. The Firm’s attorneys are familiar with the many variations of tribal constitutions, laws and court systems, as well as the issues tribes often confront when dealing with federal, state and local governments and school districts.
Lane Powell has handled a number of intergovernmental agreements between Northwest tribes and state and local governments, and between separate tribes. These agreements can cover relationships governing school funding, shared police resources and shared water systems, among others.
As part of its Indian Law practice, Lane Powell has:
- Represented the Snohomish Tribe to obtain federal recognition that would make the tribe eligible for federal benefits and programs that will help the tribe toward economic self-sufficiency, as well as validate the tribe’s cultural heritage. Lane Powell also is addressing how the tribe’s federal recognition could impact the treaty fishing rights of other tribes.
- Assisted the Frank’s Landing Indian Community in establishing a business with a neighboring tribe and in finalizing the agreements and real property transactions to enable the business to operate. Lane Powell also is defending Frank’s Landing from a challenge by a neighboring tribe to its authority to enter into such a business venture.
- Represented tribes developing and financing renewable-energy plants on tribal trust lands, including a 20MW biomass plant for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Lane Powell is assisting the tribe in retaining ownership of the project and receiving subsidy benefits of several kinds of tax credit financing by leasing to a taxable non-tribal entity.
- Negotiated and finalized a number of real property transactions involving tribal properties, including reviewing loan and other financing documentation, evaluating the transactions on behalf of the tribes, and addressing any challenges associated with tribes placing property into trust status with the federal government.
- Assisted the Stilliguamish Tribe in evaluating tribal businesses for any potential financial mismanagement and to recover any funds owed to the tribe.
- Worked on a securitization plan enabling the region’s tribes to register personal-property interests.
- Represented tribal members against criminal charges related to the taxation of tribal businesses, and has assisted tribes in investigating and addressing potential criminal activity at tribal businesses.
Lane Powell attorneys are experienced in a number of other areas of Indian Law, such as treaty fishing and shell-fishing rights, tribal claims of ownership to tidal and other submerged lands, tribal trust litigation, issues associated with the federal government’s management of tribal natural resources, tribal environmental regulations, and fee-to-trust issues, among several other tribal-specific matters.
Lane Powell currently serves as general counsel for the Frank’s Landing Indian Community and its affiliated entities, the Wa He Lut Indian School and the Alesek Institute, a community development organization.