WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2020 – Jenner & Block is pleased to announce that a team of six leading lawyers in Native American law and two government relations specialists have joined the firm, significantly expanding the Native American Law Practice’s offerings to clients, including adding government relations capabilities. The eight-person team is based in Washington, DC and includes a former US Ambassador, a White House tribal liaison for President Barack Obama, and a former Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs for the Department of the Interior.
The team also has broad and significant experience in international litigation, adding to the firm’s existing experience in national security litigation and counseling as well as negotiating with foreign governments and navigating the United Nations and other multilateral institutions.
Ambassador Keith M. Harper, Charles W. Galbraith and Robert C. Harmala join as partners, with Ambassador Harper serving as chair of the Native American Law Practice and Mr. Galbraith as co-chair. Mr. Harmala serves as chair of the Government Relations Practice. Lawrence S. Roberts joins as special counsel, Krystalyn Kinsel and Julian P. SpearChief-Morris join as associates, Craig Williams joins as a senior government relations specialist and Joshua Bertalotto joins as a junior government relations specialist. The partners started with the firm on July 13, with the rest of the team starting later this month. The group includes tribal citizens of the Cherokee Nation, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and two citizens of the Navajo Nation.
The team provides deep experience in Native American law, litigation and government relations. Chambers USA has ranked members of the team nationally since 2011, as has US News-Best Lawyers in Native American law. When combined with Jenner & Block’s existing representation of Native American tribes, including the groundbreaking US Supreme Court victory upholding tribal treaty rights in McGirt v. Oklahoma last week and another on behalf of the Yakama Nation in 2019, the expanded practice offers clients a full range of strategic, legal, and government relations services.
“Our Native American Law Practice has already established its prominence through our work on complex, high-profile cases. Adding these established practitioners builds on our reputation and allows us to immediately expand our offerings to clients,” said Thomas J. Perrelli, chair of Jenner & Block. “Their work also aligns with many of our other practices, particularly in expanding the firm’s international and energy practices. They are also a great cultural fit and share the firm’s values as well as our commitment to racial and social justice.”
Ambassador Harper, who is the first Native American to be appointed as a US Ambassador, represented the plaintiff class of 500,000 individual Native Americans and served as class counsel in the landmark Indian trust funds lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar. Ultimately the case settled for $3.4 billion, which represents the largest settlement of a lawsuit against the United States in history.
The team’s lawyers are equipped to provide general counsel services for tribes, which face the same issues as governments and corporations. Their service areas include litigation, investigations, and government relations matters involving sovereign immunity, water rights, taxation, scared sites protection, treaties, reservation land status, tribal governance, gaming, energy, lending, land use and management, energy development, and labor and employment, among other issues.
Lawyers in Jenner & Block’s Native American Law Practice have represented tribes in high-stakes matters at all levels of litigation. Last week, a firm team led by Appellate and Supreme Court Practice Chair Ian Heath Gershengorn obtained a critical victory for Indian Country in the US Supreme Court in McGirt v. Oklahoma that holds the federal government to its treaty obligations by recognizing that almost half of Oklahoma remains an Indian reservation, as promised almost 200 years ago in treaties with the Creek Nation. In 2019, Partner Adam G. Unikowsky won another major Supreme Court tribal treaty rights case on behalf of the Yakama Nation in Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc. that upheld the tribe’s rights under the Yakama Treaty of 1855.
"Jenner & Block’s landmark Supreme Court wins upholding tribal treaty rights have been an inspiration throughout Indian Country. These successes, along with the team’s outstanding record, its history of government service, and its genuine commitment to social justice, shows why the combination of our practices brings exceptional value to our tribal and other clients,” said Mr. Galbraith.
The firm has also achieved several important victories for the Cayuga Nation, including in March when a New York federal judge vindicated its sovereign right to game under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act after a village attempted to enforce an anti-gaming ordinance against the tribe. Partner David W. DeBruin led that effort.
“We built our team from the ground up into one of the country’s foremost Native American law practices because we are keenly aware of the unique legal needs tribal governments, businesses, and individuals face and the specialized services they need. This is why we are all excited to join a firm with lawyers and professionals who complement and expand the services we offer our clients,” said Ambassador Harper. “We also look forward to being a part of Jenner & Block’s recognized culture of excellence, diversity and inclusion, and its deep commitment to pro bono and public service.”
Ambassador Harper joins recent hire Ambassador David Pressman. During their respective tenures on the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations Security Council, Ambassadors Harper and Pressman led high-stakes international negotiations on human rights and international peace and security issues for the United States government. The addition of Mr. Harmala, who has international relations experience, and Ambassador Lee S. Wolosky, who joined in February, also mark a significant expansion in the firm’s cross-border capabilities. These include litigating national security matters and addressing these matters on behalf of firm clients before the US government, negotiating directly with foreign governments, navigating multilateral institutions, and representing client interests across the globe.
The team’s addition also marks the firm’s 11th lateral partner hire this year, including energy lawyer Jennifer S. Amerkhail, litigator Douglass A. Mitchell, government contracts lawyer David B. Robbins, litigator Dawn L. Smalls, white collar lawyer Andrew Weissmann, and communications lawyer Zeb Zankel, as well as Ambassadors Pressman and Wolosky.
About the Team
Ambassador Keith Harper, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, focuses his practice on Native American affairs, litigation, and matters with an international component from the private and public sectors. From 2014 until 2017, he served as the US Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Throughout his legal career, Ambassador Harper has represented tribes and individual Indians. Drawing on his foreign relations experience, he also represents clients in international litigation and other cross-border matters. He earned his JD from New York University School of Law and a BA in sociology and psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Charles Galbraith is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and focuses his practice on litigation and Native American affairs. He served in the Obama White House as associate director of intergovernmental affairs and public engagement. In that role, Mr. Galbraith analyzed, formulated, and coordinated political and policy strategy for President Obama, cabinet members, and Executive Branch agencies on all matters affecting tribal governments and Native American people. Mr. Galbraith earned a JD from Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a BA in political science from the University of Chicago.
Rob Harmala focuses his practice on government relations at the federal, state, and local levels. Mr. Harmala's legislative and legal experience spans a diverse array of subject areas, including Native American affairs, intellectual property, international relations, appropriations, tax, the laws of the European Union, transportation, telecommunications, and media and advertising. In addition to his federal representation, Mr. Harmala also provides advocacy services to clients before the California legislature as well as other political entities in California. He earned his JD from the University of Southern California and his AB from the University of California, Berkeley.
Lawrence Roberts, a citizen of the Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin, draws upon more than 20 years of experience in federal service and Native American law to assist tribes in reaching long-term solutions through the courts, Congress, or the administrative process. Mr. Roberts served in several roles in the Department of the Interior, including as acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, as the general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission, and began his career as a trial attorney with the US Department of Justice. He earned a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a BA in political science and sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mr. Roberts’ first day with the firm is July 23.
Krystalyn Kinsel is a citizen of the Navajo Nation who focuses her practice on litigation and Native American affairs. She previously worked as a trial attorney in the Attorney General Honors Program of the Natural Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice. She earned her JD from Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and her BA in political science and government from the University of Arizona. Ms. Kinsel’s first day with the firm is July 20.
Julian SpearChief-Morris is a citizen of the Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) of the Blackfoot Confederacy and focuses his practice on Native American affairs, litigation, and international issues relating to both the private and public sector. He earned his JD from Harvard Law School and a BA with distinction in urban and regional studies from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Mr. SpearChief-Morris’ first day with the firm is July 20.
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS SPECIALISTS
Craig Williams, a senior government relations specialist, is a lawyer and member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and advises clients on matters of public policy with a focus on Native American affairs. He previously served as the diversity director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He earned his JD, with a certificate in Federal Indian Law, from the University of New Mexico School of Law, an MA in Political Science from Jackson State University and a BS from Auburn University. Mr. Williams’ first day with the firm is July 20.
Joshua Bertalotto, a junior government relations specialist, is a citizen of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and has experience in policy, communications and advocacy in public, private and nonprofit institutions. He previously worked on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and earned a BA in sociology and social policy from The Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Bertalotto’s first day with the firm is July 20.