The Northern Arapaho Tribe has filed a lawsuit against its former law firm and its managing partner.
The civil suit, filed in Wyoming's 9th District Court on July 29, alleges that Lander-based firm Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C. and attorney Kelly Rudd have withheld tribal documents and funds and "enmeshed themselves in the Tribe's sovereign affairs" with the goal of controlling the tribal government's decision-making.
"Tribal members and residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation are owed an explanation for what this law firm has done with our people's money and property," said a July 29 press release signed off on by the Northern Arapaho Business Council. "We are gravely concerned about financial appropriations that have occurred.”
Soon after, two members of the six-person Business Council published their own statement saying the allegations weren’t true.
“Well, it’s a big mess. It’s all false allegations,” said Councilman Samuel Dresser, who along with Councilman Anthony “Al” Addison says he was deliberately excluded from voting on the resolution to file suit.
“Me and Al, we’ve been on [the Business Council] a long time. And what they’re doing is wrong. They just push us aside like dogs,” Dresser said.
The lawsuit includes affidavits from the remaining four Business Council members swearing that Dresser and Addison simply did not show up to vote on the resolution.
The firm, which served the Northern Arapaho Tribe for more than 30 years before it was fired in June, sent the following statement to Wyoming Public Radio via email:
“The recent lawsuit against our firm is baseless and defamatory. It's jarring when someone falsely accuses you of doing something wrong, so we especially appreciate all the kind words and support from the community. We look forward to setting the record straight.”
Keith Harper, a D.C.-based Indian law attorney who is representing the tribe, said in an interview he has been retained to protect the tribe’s right to self-determination.
“Not turning over a client’s own documents really is extraordinary abuse. Not turning over their funds is extraordinary abuse,” Harper said. “What this lawsuit is about is standing up for the Northern Arapaho people and taking back control of their community and their sovereignty.”