Indian Law & Gaming

We deliver creative strategies and decisive practical guidance and counseling to work through sophisticated transactions and resolve complex disputes concerning economic development, sovereignty and gaming initiatives.

Our approach

The laws and policies that govern American Indian tribes, tribal gaming and tribal businesses are complex and continually evolving. We use a collaborative cross-practice approach, staying abreast of legislation, lobbying efforts, energy developments and significant cases impacting Indian Nations so that we can sense ahead while working closely with clients on tactical decisions to keep the focus on the desired outcome. We are recognized by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business for having a nationally-ranked Indian law practice, and because we bring a profound understanding of Indian law to a variety of clients and engagements. We represent tribes, individual tribal officers, non-tribal entities that do business with tribes and municipalities that interact with tribes on regulatory and governance issues. No matter who the client is, we can draw on two decades of experience handling some of the most sophisticated Indian law matters in the country. 

Who we work with

  • Tribes and tribal officers
  • Municipalities
  • Non-tribal entities such as industry trade groups and citizen groups
  • Non-tribal entities doing business with Indian tribes

Representative experience

Bond/Underwriter’s Counsel
  • Bond counsel to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in connection with a tax-exempt bond financing to acquire additional land to be used for tribal purposes.
  • Bond counsel to the Lower Brule Sioux tribe in connection with a tax-exempt bond financing to build roads and other capital improvements on tribal lands.
  • Underwriter’s counsel on tax-exempt bond financings on behalf of the Seminole, Apache and Navajo Nations.
  • We represent numerous energy firms (i.e., wind and hydropower companies) exploring opportunities in Indian Country. Our work includes assisting an independent power producer in connection with FERC licensing of a hydroelectric facility, and assisting a financing company investing in a wind power project.
Government Investigations
  • We represent the CFO and chairman of a tribe in connection with a federal government investigation.
Regulatory and Jurisdictional
  • Madison and Oneida Counties, New York

    Oneida Land Claim—We represented the counties and obtained summary judgment dismissing the claims (which was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals).

    Oneida Settlement Agreement—We represented the counties in a historic multi-party settlement that resolved all outstanding jurisdictional, taxing,and regulatory disputes, including land-into-trust litigation.

  • Stockbridge Munsee Tribal Land Claim

    We represent counties and several towns (and one village) in defending against claims by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians that they have been unlawfully excluded from their reservation in central New York. The claims were dismissed on summary judgment and the Tribe has appealed that ruling to the Second Circuit.

  • Counties of Napa and Sonoma, California

    Mishewal Wappo Restoration Claim—We represent the counties in an action seeking restoration of federal tribal recognition and the taking of lands into trust.

Mass. tribe pulls casino land-into-trust bid from DOI

Law360 | June 28, 2017

This article is about recent developments in the case involving the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s bid for land to build a casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.  Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant and Boston labor and employment associate Matt Frankel are included for representing the Massachusetts residents.

Mashpee tribe’s land in trust decision—including Taunton casino site—delayed

Taunton Gazette | June 20, 2017

Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant is quoted, and Boston labor and employment associate Matt Frankel is mentioned, in this article about when a ruling will be made in a casino and land-in-trust case in Massachusetts.

The top Native American rulings of 2017: Midyear report

Law360 | June 02, 2017

Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant is quoted in this article discussing a decision to allow the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head to build a casino on Martha's Vineyard and the state’s plan to challenge the decision by taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Feds drop appeal in Taunton casino case, may still take land in trust on other grounds

Taunton Daily Gazette | April 28, 2017

Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant is quoted in this article about the next steps in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s endeavors to build a casino in Taunton, MA.

U.S. Supreme Court lets Cowlitz ruling stand, ‘good news’ for Taunton casino prospects

Taunton Gazette | April 03, 2017

This article focuses on a U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that it is in the federal government’s authority to take land into trust for another tribe. The article references a case in Massachusetts about the Mashpee Tribe’s attempt to build a casino there.  Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant, who represents residents who are challenging the casino, is quoted.

Fight over Mashpee tribe’s land, casino continues in Trump era

Cape Cod Times | March 14, 2017

Rochester commercial litigation partner and co-chair of the firm’s Indian Law and Gaming team David Tennant is quoted in this article about the Justice Department’s delay in deciding whether to appeal a decision in a case regarding Mashpee Wampanoag tribal land.

4 Issues Tribal Advocates Want The Supreme Court To Avoid

Law360 | July 29, 2016

Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant is quoted in this article which covers four key questions attorneys for Native American tribes are leery of the high court tackling.

DOI Seeks To Pare Challenge Of Approval Of Mass. Tribe Trust

Law360 | April 20, 2016

Rochester partner David Tennant and Boston associate Matthew Frankel are noted as counsel representing Massachusetts residents in a case involving land the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has put into a trust for a $500 million casino project.

Neb. Tribe's High Court Win Doesn't Clinch Tax Power

Law360 | March 23, 2016

Rochester commercial litigation partner David Tennant is quoted in this article about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday granting a Nebraska tribe a win by ruling that a federal land act didn't reduce the size of its reservation.

Law360 Native American Editorial Advisory Board

Law360 | February 25, 2016

This feature story profiles the members of the 2016 Native American Law360 editorial advisory board, including partner David Tennant, who served on the 2015 board as well.

NY Tribe's Land Claims Appeal Nixed By 2nd Circ.

Law360 | October 27, 2015

Commercial Litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Indian Law & Gaming team Michael Cohen is featured in this story on the Second Circuit’s decision to toss a bid by the Shinnecock Indian Nation to overturn a NY district court's dismissal of its land reclamation claims in the Hamptons. Michael is quoted and identified as counsel for many of the appellees.

Justices May Stress Non-Tribal History in Jurisdiction Fight

Law360 | October 08, 2015

Rochester Commercial Litigation partner David Tennant, a member of Native American Law360’s editorial board, provides third-party in this U.S. Supreme Court tribal jurisdiction article.

Law360 Announces 2015 Native American Editorial Board

Law360 | June 19, 2015

Rochester partner David Tennant has been named to Law360’s 2015 Native American editorial advisory board.

2nd Circ. Urged to Nix Tribe's Hamptons Land Claims

Law360 | June 04, 2015

This feature story notes New York and other defendants’ request to the Second Circuit to uphold the dismissal of the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s complaint saying the appeals court’s precedent of denying such tribal land claims is well-settled. Long Island commercial litigation partner Michael Cohen is identified among the appellees’ counsel.

  • Chambers USA/Global, Nationally ranked: Indian Law & Gaming practice
  • U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranked as National Tier One in Commercial Litigation, Litigation—First Amendment, Litigation—Labor & Employment, and Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions—Defendants. Received Tier One Metropolitan Honors in Commercial Litigation, Criminal Defense: White Collar, Litigation—Securities, Litigation—Bankruptcy, Litigation ERISA, Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions—Defendants, Product Liability Litigation—Defendants, Litigation—Construction and in Civil Rights Law in numerous cities throughout the U.S.
  • BTI Litigation Outlook 2013
    • “Most Feared Law Firms”—Honor Roll
    • Strong Performance—IP Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Product Liability Litigation
  • Legal 500
  • Benchmark: Litigation/Appellate
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