The Office of Tribal Attorney (OTA) provides legal advice and representation to the Nooksack Indian Tribal Government, tribal programs and enterprises in their official capacities within their scope of work. OTA serves as the legal representative for the Nooksack Indian Tribe (NIT) in active litigation before tribal, state, federal and administrative forums.
Office of Tribal Attorney Staff
Senior Tribal Attorney
OTA attorneys attend Nooksack Indian Tribal Council meetings and provide the Council with legal advice and assistance across the range of matters facing NIT. OTA provides assistance to the Council in the development of tribal laws and ordinances and other related project work, including all NIT policies. OTA also provides legal support to various NIT committees, commissions, and boards.
OTA attorneys provide ongoing support to NIT’s administrative staff. Our support duties include grant and contract review, assistance on various governance matters, representation of NIT in personnel matters, representation on financial and budget matters that impact the government and its various departments. OTA and NIT Human Resource Department continuously review and update NIT’s personnel policies. OTA also drafts codes for NIT.
OTA assists the Family Services Department in a number of cases involving Indian Child Welfare, Minors in Need of Care, and Child Support Enforcement. We provide assistance to NIT Family Services by appearing in various court cases as substitute counsel for the ICW attorney when unavailable or conflicted out and in reviewing proposed policies and procedures. OTA has assisted in federal litigation over the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Our office provides regular assistance to the Planning Department, giving advice on land use, land leasing, and transportation issues. We are currently preparing several land parcels in Deming, Washington to be placed into trust status by the U.S. government. We are also recently assisted in the purchase of the Timber Ridge Parcel and the former Deming Presbyterian Church property by the Tribe.
OTA provides legal advice and consultation to the finance department on various legal issues facing that department.
OTA provides legal advice to NIT Natural Resources Department staff on a myriad of issues including cultural resources, water quality, enforcement, off-Reservation treaty right protection, forest practices, Endangered Species Act issues, and hunting and fishing. To protect NIT’s treaty fishing rights off-Reservation, OTA is involved in a continuing collaborative effort with Natural Resources staff to develop a strategy for protecting the Nooksack River fishery habitat. We have been involved in Washington State efforts to file an adjudication of all water rights in the Nooksack River basin and with efforts to determine an in-stream flow rule for the Nooksack River.
In litigation, OTA, together with outside counsel, continued to work with other tribes in representing NIT’s interests before the federal courts to force the State of Washington to remove a culvert system that blocks salmon migration, diminishes salmon populations, and interferes with the Tribes’ treaty fishing rights.
Economic Development and Enterprises
The OTA provides advice concerning federal procurement requirements for both qualified Tribal owned businesses and NIT government. Related to tax considerations, OTA has worked with the Department of Revenue in an effort to gain exempt status for various NIT owned property. This office advises NIT and its enterprises in various areas of taxation and business operations, including pension plans, sales tax, and cigarette tax, impacts from land repurchasing, as well as construction issues. In addition, OTA assists the Northwood Casino with regulatory issues. Most recently, OTA has assisted with recent compact gaming amendments to increase the number of slot leases available to the Tribe and to allow Class III gaming at the Northwood Casino.
OTA provides for civil legal enforcement of hunting, fishing, and various other civil violations. OTA also represents NIT in enforcing its criminal laws through the Nooksack Tribal Court.
Through a contract attorney, OTA provides a clinic for Tribal members who need legal services in preparing and drafting wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.