After McGirt Decision, Jenner & Block Expands Native Law & Government Relations Teams

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on July 9th that 19 million acres in eastern Oklahoma is Indian land. Now, Jenner & Block—the firm that worked on the case on behalf of the plaintiffs—is expanding its Native American practice with a team of eight law and government relations professionals. (Jenner & Block – Facebook)

In early July, the Supreme Court issued its landmark 5-4 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which ruled that 19 million acres of land in eastern Oklahoma were treaty-defined lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, having never been disestablished by Congress.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the majority opinion. “Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

Now, Jenner & Block—the firm that worked on the case on behalf of the plaintiffs—is expanding its Native American practice with a team of eight law and government relations professionals.

“Our Native American Law Practice has already established its prominence through our work on complex, high profile cases,” said Thomas J. Perrelli, chair of Jenner & Block. “Adding these established practitioners builds on our reputation and allows us to immediately expand our offerings to clients.”

“Their work also aligns with many of our other practices, particularly in expanding the firm’s international and energy practices,” Perrelli continued. “They are also a great cultural fit and share the firm’s values as well as our commitment to racial and social justice.”

The team includes Keith Harper (Cherokee), Charles Galbraith (Navajo), and Robert Harmala, who will all be joining the firm as partners. Others joining Jenner & Block include special counsel Lawrence Roberts (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), associates Krystalyn Kinsel (Navajo) and Julian SpearChief-Morris (Blood Tribe [Kainai Nation] of the Blackfoot Confederacy), senior government relations specialist Craig Williams (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians), and junior government relations specialist Joshua Bertalotto (Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana).

Harper is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland and will chair the firm’s Native American law practice. Galbraith, a veteran of the Obama White House who managed the relationship between the administration and tribal governments and Native American people, will co-chair the practice. Harmala will chair the firm’s government relations practice.

The partners started with the firm on July 13, with the rest of the team joining later in July.

In news related to the recent Supreme Court victory, on Monday this week, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order forming a commission to advise the state on the heels of the ruling. The Oklahoma Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty is charged with addressing concerns and making recommendations to the state and U.S. Congress in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions in McGirt v. Oklahoma and Sharp v. Murphy. This announcement comes after the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations withdrew from an agreement-in-principle announced by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter shortly after the Court’s decision was released.

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