Former United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota Tim Purdon has made his career leading complex criminal investigations and high stakes civil litigation from both the plaintiff and defense counsel’s table. His path has uniquely positioned him to rewrite the odds for American Indian Tribes embroiled in complex historic disputes, businesses facing “bet-the-company” litigation in North Dakota, and for real people caught up in “once-in-a-lifetime” lawsuits with powerful interests.
Tim has a twenty-five year track record in private practice and in public service as a passionate champion for his clients and as an incisive strategic thinker. The essence of who Tim is as a lawyer was captured in 2011 by the editorial page of his hometown newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune. Reflecting on Tim’s relentless fight as U.S. Attorney for increased public safety in Indian Country, they wrote that Tim’s efforts “confirmed Purdon's passion and seriousness about trying to make a difference for those less fortunate, for the voices of so many that have been muted for years.” Tim’s commitment to Tribes continues, and his work for Tribes and Tribal members has been recognized by Chambers, Best Lawyers in America, and Indian Country Business Today.
Prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP, Tim served as North Dakota’s U.S. Attorney from 2010-2015. In that role, he was the chief federal law enforcement official in North Dakota with responsibility for prosecuting all federal crimes in North Dakota and defending the United States in civil litigation. As U.S. Attorney, Tim placed special emphasis on the issues of increasing public safety on the American Indian reservations in North Dakota and on working with law enforcement partners to counter the new threat from organized crime that emerged as a result of the oil boom in western North Dakota’s Bakken region. Prior to becoming U.S. Attorney, Tim spent 15 years representing North Dakotans - trying cases across the state, leading class actions lawsuits, and arguing complex appeals. In 2007 and 2009, Tim was named a “Great Plains Super Lawyer” in the practice area of Criminal Defense by Minnesota Law & Politics Magazine.Tim was called on to assume leadership roles at the Department of Justice while he was U.S. Attorney. In 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder tapped Tim to be a member of the select Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC). The AGAC advises the Attorney General on criminal justice matters and serves as the voice of the United States Attorney community in setting Department of Justice policies. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Tim the Chair of the Attorney General’s Native American Issues subcommittee (NAIS). The NAIS is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General regarding public safety and legal issues that impact tribal communities. While Chair of NAIS, Tim represented the Department of Justice in testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. When Tim left the Justice Department, Attorney General Holder praised his tenure as U.S. Attorney for North Dakota stating that, “Tim Purdon has been an outstanding United States Attorney, a fierce advocate for the people of North Dakota and a strong national leader whose efforts to improve public safety in Indian Country have made a profound difference – and touched countless lives.”
American Indian Law and Policy
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II and Councilman Dana Yellow Fat: In the fall of 2016, Tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) resulted in widespread protests against DAPL that drove the issue on to the national stage. In connection with the protests against the DAPL, Robins Kaplan represented Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault and Councilman Dana Yellow Fat to represent them after Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) sued them in federal court. ETP had obtained a Temporary Restraining Order, preventing Chairman Archambault from “illegally” protesting DAPL. Tim was successful in getting the TRO dissolved and the lawsuit against Chairman Dave Archambault and Councilman Dana Yellow Fat dismissed.
National Tribal Opioid Litigation: Tim represents over two dozen Tribes in the Multidistrict Litigation consolidated in the Northern District of Ohio. Tim and the Robins Kaplan Mass Tort Group are part of the MDL’s Tribal Opioid Litigation Leadership Team working within the MDL to press Tribal Nation claims against the manufacturers and distributors of the opioid products that fueled the national opioid epidemic.
Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation: Tim represents the MHA Nation in its fight against the Department of Interior’s and State of North Dakota’s efforts to take the MHA Nation’s ownership rights to the riverbed of the Missouri River inside the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation. Tim achieved a significant partial victory for MHA Nation in early 2021 when DOI withdrew a Trump administration M-Opinion which purported to strip ownership of this property from MHA Nation and give it to North Dakota.
Tim has also represented MHA Nation on a host of other matters. He represents MHA Nation in enforcing its “setback” ordinances against a large oil exploration company and the United States Bureau of Land Management. He also teamed with Robins Kaplan’s Bankruptcy Practice Group in Los Angeles to assist the MHA Nation in purchasing a multi-million dollar parcel of Las Vegas real estate out of a bankruptcy estate.
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin: Tim represented the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in its declaratory judgment lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice over the DEA’s raid of the Tribe’s 2015 industrial hemp crop. The lawsuit sought a judicial determination of the Tribe’s right to grow industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: Tim served as counsel for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the North Dakota Public Service Commission proceeding on the expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the summer of 2019, Energy Transfer Partners petitioned the Commission to nearly double the capacity of the controversial pipeline. Tim secured intervention for SRST in this proceeding and presented SRST’s opposition to the proposed expansion in a marathon, 17-hour public hearing in October 2019.
Spirit Lake Nation: Tim successfully represented the Spirit Lake Nation in their opposition to a proposed construction of a large-scale factory hog farm located outside the boundaries of the Spirit Lake Reservations but near Devils Lake, the Tribe’s primary water source.
Pro Bono Work for Tribes
Indian Health Service Treaty Violations: Tim led a Robins Kaplan LLP pro bono trial team that filed suit in federal court in South Dakota on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe against the federal government to preserve critical health care services. The lawsuit stems from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ decision in December 2015 to close the emergency room at the Indian Health Service Hospital in Rosebud - the sole emergency room on the Rosebud Reservation - after an audit revealed serious deficiencies. Tim and the firm won a U.S. District Court ruling finding that IHS had violated its treaty and statutory responsibility to provide the Tribe with adequate health care services.
Tribal Voting Rights: Tim served as pro bono counsel for Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight for Tribal voting rights as they challenged restrictive Voter ID laws in North Dakota. In February 2020, the North Dakota Secretary of State agreed to a settlement which will ensure that Native American voters who do not have or do not know their residential street address are able to vote. Under the terms of the settlement, Tribal members seeking to vote without a qualifying voter ID will have the opportunity to mark their home on a map. The Secretary of State also agreed to work with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to implement a program to distribute free non-driver photo IDs on every reservation in the state within 30 days of future elections.
Business Litigation in North Dakota
Fortune 500 Energy Company: Tim successfully coordinated the North Dakota front of a complex, multi-venue litigation for a Fortune 500 energy company.
Fortune 500 Farm Equipment Manufacturers: Tim was part of a team that led a successful constitutional challenge in federal court in North Dakota on behalf of five large farm equipment manufacturers to a farm equipment dealer protection statute passed by the North Dakota Legislature in 2017.
National Insurance and Financial Services Firm: Tim is part of a team that represents a national insurance and financial services firm in a North Dakota federal court suit alleging theft of trade secrets and breach of loyalty by former employees.
North Dakota Oil Field Professional: Tim is part of a team that represents a North Dakota oil field professional in a North Dakota federal court suit involving allegations of alleging theft of trade secrets and breach of loyalty by former employees.
North Dakota Oil Field Service Company: Tim has successfully represented a western North Dakota oil field services company in disputes with vendors and customers.
Closely Held Company Partnership Dispute: Tim led a Robins Kaplan LLP team in a multi-year North Dakota state court litigation for a Bakken oil field business over the alleged existence of a partnership.
Angel Investment Fund: Successfully resolved complex dispute with North Dakota Department of Commerce and North Dakota Tax Commissioner for a North Dakota based angel investment fund.
North Dakota Class Actions (Class Counsel)
Hanson v. Acceleration Life: United States District Court, District of North Dakota. Class Counsel for a class of approximately 2,000 North Dakota Long-Term Care insurance policyholders on fraud claims. (Prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP)
Rose v. United Equitable: United States District Court, District of North Dakota, Cass County. Class Counsel for class of approximately 8,000 North Dakota Long-Term Care insurance policyholders on fraud claims. (Prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP)
Sauby v. City of Fargo: United States District Court, District of North Dakota. Class Counsel class of approximately 54,000 citizens on Civil Rights claims that they had paid traffic fines in excess of those allowed by state law. (Prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP)
North Dakotan v. Large Bank: United States District Court, District of North Dakota. Class Counsel for class of approximately 25,000 North Dakota bank customers on claims of data privacy violations. (Prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP)
Tim has briefed and/or personally argued many cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the North Dakota Supreme Court including (case before 2015 are prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP):
Haugen, et al. v. Jaeger, et al. 948 N.W.2d 001 (N.D. 2020)
United States v. Hager, 710 F.3d 830 (8th Cir. 2013)
United States v. Banks, 706 F.3d 901 (8th Cir. 2013)
United States v. Boyle, 700 F.3d 1138 (8th Cir. 2013)
United States v. Anderson, 664 F.3d 758 (8th Cir. 2011)
United States v. Raysor, 661 F.3d 987 (8th Cir. 2011)
United States v. Quintero, 648 F.3d 660 (8th Cir. 2011)
Sauby v. City of Fargo, 747 N.W.2d 65 (N.D. 2007)
State v. Friedt, 735 N.W.2d 848 (N.D. 2007)
Bartch v. D.O.T. 743 N.W.2d 109 (N.D. 2007)
Bollin v. D.O.T., 696 N.W.2d 527 (N.D. 2005)
Doll v. D.O.T., 693 N.W.2d 627 (N.D. 2005)
Hansen v. Scott, 687 N.W.2d 247 (N.D. 2004)
Azure v. Belcourt School Dist., 681 N.W.2d 816 (N.D. 2004)
Jaste v. Gailfus, 679 N.W.2d 257 (N.D. 2004)
Wetsch v. D.O.T., 679 N.W.2d 282 (N.D. 2004)
Rose v. United Equitable, 651 N.W.2d 683 (N.D. 2002)
Hansen v. Scott, 645 N.W.2d 218 (N.D. 2002)
Howes v. Kelly Services, 649 N.W.2d 218 (N.D. 2002)
Howes v. Kelly Services, 654 N.W.2d 422 (N.D. 2002)
Hopkins v. North Dakota, 625 N.W.2d 528 (N.D. 2001)
Rose v. United Equitable, 632 N.W.2d 429 (N.D. 2001)
Kreidt v. B.N.S.F., 615 N.W.2d 153 (N.D. 2000)
State v. Gwyther, 589 N.W.2d 575 (N.D. 1999)
Morrell v. D.O.T., 598 N.W.2d 111 (N.D. 1999)
Hurt v. Freeland, 589 N.W.2d 551 (N.D. 1999)
Larson v. D.O.T., 564 N.W.2d 628 (N.D. 1998)
United States v. Balanga, 109 F.3d 1299 (8th Cir. 1997)
Tabert v. D.O.T., 560 N.W.2d 883 (N.D. 1997)
United States v. LaMorie, 100 F.3d 547 (8th Cir. 1996)
- Voting Member, United States Sentencing Commission’s Tribal Issues Advisory Group
- Board Member, Infinity Project
- Board Member, Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota
- “Stepping into the Shoes of the Department of Justice: The Unusual, Necessary, and Hopeful Path the Illinois Attorney General Took to Require Police Reform in Chicago,” Northwestern Law Journal of Law and Social Policy (Winter 2020)
- The New York Times, Lawmakers Seek Answers for Why Native American Women Vanish (September 5, 2018)
- The Bismarck Tribune, Rural American Can't Escape Drug Problems (January 10, 2018)
- The Washington Post, 3 S.D. Indian Tribes Sue Drugmakers over Opioid Addiction (January 9, 2018)
- Argus Leader, South Dakota Tribes Sue Drugmakers Over Opioid Painkillers (January 8, 2018)
- The Bismarck Tribune, Native American Tribes File Federal Lawsuit Against Opioid Industry (January 8, 2018)
- Law360, Law360 Native American Editorial Advisory Board (February 27, 2017)
- INFORUM, Standing Rock Tribal Leaders Represented by Former U.S. Attorney (August 22, 2016)
- ABC News, US Supreme Court to Decide Whether Tribal Convictions Count (December 15, 2015)
- Indian Country Today Media Network, Former US Attorneys Hope to Level Playing Field for American Indians (June 6, 2015)
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