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New Legal Director brings years of dedication to Indian Country

Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has appointed Mr. David C. Smith as the new Legal Department Director. Smith joined the Tribe on May 2, after serving as a Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, where he was a member of the firm’s Native American Practice Group. He represented tribes and individual Indians in matters concerning trust mismanagement, treaty rights, sovereign immunity, intellectual property, management of natural resources, property rights, and protection of sacred sites.

Smith stated, “I have long admired the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. It has long served as a leader in Indian Country through its effective tribal government and the management of its natural resources.  It is an honor to serve as the Tribe’s Legal Director and work with an exceptional group of lawyers.” Smith brings more than 30 years’ experience representing federally recognized tribes in litigation involving the mismanagement of trust responsibilities, gaming, and energy development. While serving as the Class Counsel in the class action lawsuit, Cobell v. Jewell, he represented more than 500,000 Native Americans (including enrolled Southern Ute tribal members) in a case centered on the mismanagement of the individual Indian Trust. He also served as the lead counsel in the case of Alabama v. PCI Gaming Authority – successfully defending the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from efforts by the state to subject its gaming activity to state law. Smith also has experience serving as legal counsel for cases arguing against the unauthorized use of tribal lands by a natural gas company, Davilla v. Enable Midstream Partners.

After graduating cum laude from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Smith continued his education at Wake Forest University graduating cum laude with his Juris Doctorate in Law. Smith has received numerous awards for his achievements and pro bono work. Over the years he represented over 30 children as guardian ad litem through the Children’s Law Centers in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina, pro bono. This, along with his pro bono work representing individual Indians and tribes in land disputes in Oklahoma,  led to his receipt of  the 2017 Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award from the D.C. Bar.

“I would like to welcome Mr. David Smith as the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s new Legal Department Director. As Chairman I am looking forward to working and communicating with Mr. Smith,” Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage expressed. “I encourage the tribal membership to visit and introduce yourself to Mr. Smith.”

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