Timothy Q. Purdon


Tim Purdon

Timothy Q. Purdon


Chair, American Indian Law and Policy Group;
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group
Tim Purdon


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. In 2022, Tim secured wrongful death judgments in excess of $2 billion under the Anti-Terrorism Act against an international drug cartel in federal court in North Dakota.

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 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.

Anti-Terrorism Act

In 2022, Tim led a week-long damages trial under Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”) in U.S. District Court in Bismarck, North Dakota. The case involved an attack by members of an international drug cartel on our clients family. Our clients lost their mother and two young sons/brothers in the attack. The U.S. District Court entered a judgment for our clients in the amount of $2.077 billion. This is believed to be the largest judgment in North Dakota history.

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 (Cases before 2015 are prior to joining Robins Kaplan LLP):

WPX Energy Williston, LLC v. Fettig, __ F.4th __ (8th Cir. 2023)
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. United States of America, __ F.4th __ (DC Cir. 2023)
Mound v. United States of America, __ F.4th __ (8th Cir. 2023)
Energy Transfer LP v. North Dakota Private Investigative and Security Board, 973 N.W.2d 404 (N.D. 2022)
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)


Chambers USA
Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators
Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year Tim Purdon
Super Lawyers Tim Purdon
Northstar Lawyer
  • Named a "Leading Practitioner in Native American Law," Chambers USA (2019-2023)
  • Named a "Lawyer of the Year," The Best Lawyers in America (2023 edition) 
  • Listed in “500 Leading Litigators in America,” Lawdragon (2023-2024)
  • Named an "Attorney of the Year," Minnesota Lawyer (2022)
  • Named a “North Star Lawyer” by the Minnesota State Bar Association for providing at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services (2022)
  • Listed in “500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers in America," Lawdragon (2022-2024)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2019-2024 editions)
  • Named to Indian Country Business Today’s “Hot List” (2016)
  • "Alumnus of the Year,” North Dakota State College of Science (2014)
  • "Great Plains Super Lawyer - Criminal Defense,” Minnesota Law & Politics (2007, 2009)
  • Voting Member, United States Sentencing Commission’s Tribal Issues Advisory Group
  • Board Member, Infinity Project
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • United States Supreme Court
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of North Dakota
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. District Court, District of District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
  • U.S. District Court, District of Montana
  • U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • Fort Berthold District Court/MHA Nation
  • Spirit Lake Tribal Court
  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court
  • Hamline University School of Law, J.D. (1994) Minnesota State University – Moorhead, B.A., English (1991)
  • North Dakota State College of Science, A.A. (1989)
Professional Associations
  • State Bar Association of North Dakota
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • North Dakota Association for Justice
  • National Association of Former United States Attorneys, Secretary

  • Conversations on Controversial Issues moderated by Clay Jenkinson: Native Americans Now – A Path Forward with Water, Land and Sovereignty
    Vail Symposium, Vail, Colorado (August 16, 2023)
  • Tribal Jurisdiction Under the Second Montana Exception: Implications of United States v. Cooley
    North Dakota Law Review Indian Law Symposium, Grand Forks, North Dakota (March 24, 2022)
  • Celebrating Native American Heritage Month - Current Issues on American Indian Law and Policy 
    Hennepin County Bar Association, Webinar (November 29, 2021)
  • United States v. Cooley
    Panelist, Indian Law 2021 Conference (October 15, 2021)
  • Current Issues on American Indian Law and Policy 
    Panelist, In-House CLE for a Financial Institution (October 12, 2021)
  • Industrial Hemp Opportunities in Indian Country  
    MHA Nation Tribal Taxation Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada (December 4, 2019)
  • National Tribal Opioid Litigation Update
    National Indian Gaming Association Convention, San Diego, California (April 2, 2019)
  • CBD Ventures in Wisconsin Indian Country
    Wisconsin State Bar Association Indian Law Section, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (September 7, 2018)
  • Opioid Litigation: Tribal Perspectives and Responses
    Washington State Bar Association Indian Law Section, Seattle, Washington (May 17, 2018)
  • The Department of Justice under President Trump: Cannabis and Other Priorities Impacting Indian Country
    National Indian Gaming Association Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada (April 18, 2018)
  • Understanding the Opioid Epidemic and its Impact on Litigation
    MNAJ and MDLA 2018 Medical Malpractice Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota (April 12, 2018)
  • Testimony before United States Sentencing Commission on behalf of Tribal Issues Advisory Group
    United States Sentencing Commission, Washington, DC (March 14, 2018)
  • Keynote Panel State and Federal Views of the Regulatory Environment
    Moderator, Conference of Tribal Lending Commissioners, Las Vegas, NV (March 5, 2018)
  • Working with a New Administration on Tribal Issues
    Federal Bar Association, D.C. Indian Law Conference, Washington, D.C. (November 3, 2017)
  • Legal Implications of Protests at Standing Rock
    Indian Law Section of Wisconsin State Bar, Red Cliff, Wisconsin (September 29, 2017)
  • Native American Voting Rights Coalition Field Hearing
    UTTC Tribal Leaders Summit, Bismarck, North Dakota (September 5, 2017)
  • Overview of Rosebud Sioux Tribe lawsuit against the Indian Health Service
    Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT) (July 24, 2017)
  • The Holder DOJ in Indian Country
    University of Minnesota Duluth Masters of Tribal Administration and Government Program, Duluth, Minnesota (April 22, 2017)
  • A Legal Tale: The Politics & Policies of Cannabis in Indian Country
    National Indian Gaming Association Convention,San Diego, California (April 11, 2017)
  • Panel Discussion: Sharing Power: Tribal, Local, State, and Federal Cooperation
    Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona (April 6, 2017)
  • Legal Implications of the Protests at Standing Rock
    Minnesota Association for Justice Mid-Winter Meeting, Duluth, Minnesota (February 24, 2017)
  • Panel Discussion: DAPL Protests at Standing Rock
    University of Minnesota Duluth Summit on Equity, Race, and Multiculturalism, Duluth, Minnesota (February 22, 2017)
  • Cannon Ball: Bobby Kennedy, Holder’s DOJ, Water Protectors and Me
    Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota (February 16, 2017)
  • Tribal Cannabis State of Play
    Victor Strategies Tribal Cannabis & Hemp Symposium, Tulalip Reservation, Seattle, Washington (November 2, 2016)
  • Human Trafficking and Major Sports Events
    Robins Kaplan LLP Trial Advocacy Seminar (October 13, 2016)
  • Methamphetamine and the Reservations—Developing a Tribal, State, and Federal Response
    South Dakota Legislature’s Substance Abuse Prevention Interim Study Committee, Pierre, South Dakota (August 17, 2016)
  • Tribal Cannabis (Marijuana and Hemp): Evolution and Challenges of an Emerging Industry
    National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, Tulsa, Oklahoma (July 12, 2016)
  • Drone Technology and Privacy Evolving Regulation
    Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, Minneapolis, Minnesota (March 11, 2016)
  • Eric Holders Justice Department People Process and Policies
    Mitchell Hamline Alumni CLE, St. Paul, Minnesota (March 10, 2016)
  • Eric Holders Justice Department People Process and Policies
    Minnesota DFL Lawyers, Minneapolis, Minnesota (March 9, 2016)
  • Panel Discussion Incentivizing Prosecutors to Reduce Crime and Incarceration
    The Aleph Institute’s Alternative Sentencing Key Stakeholder Summit, Georgetown Law School, Washington DC (March 7, 2016)
  • Tribal Cannabis A Year in Review
    Indigenous Farming Conference, White Earth, Minnesota (March 4, 2016)
  • Human Trafficking in North Dakota
    North Dakota Indian Child Welfare and Wellness Conference, Mandan, North Dakota (February 19, 2016)
  • Drone Law: Regulation Up in the Air
    Emerging Prairie: Drone Focus Monthly Meetup, NDSU Research and Technology Park Incubator, Fargo, North Dakota (October 28, 2015)
  • Eric Holders Justice Department
    Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston, Massachusetts (October 6, 2015)
  • Current Legal Issues for Tribal Nations
    Panel, United Tribes Technical College Tribal Leaders Summit, Bismark, North Dakota (September 9, 2015)
  • Industrial Hemp as an Agricultural Product in Indian Country
    National Congress of American Indians, St. Paul, Minnesota (June 30, 2015)
  • Senator Heidi Heitkamps Human Trafficking Roundtable Featuring Cindy McCain
    Panel, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Bismarck, North Dakota (June 26, 2015)
  • Human Trafficking in North Dakota Victims Services
    State Bar Association of North Dakota, Bismarck, North Dakota (June 18, 2015)
  • Industrial Hemp Production in Indian Country
    Panel, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, Washington, DC (June 16, 2015)
  • Marijuana in Indian Country
    Native American Finance Officers Association, Austin, Texas (April 21, 2015)
  • The Fight Against Human Trafficking in North Dakota
    North Dakota Historical Society, Bismarck, North Dakota (April 18, 2015)
  • Marijuana in Indian Country
    Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section, Scottsdale, Arizona (April 9, 2015)
August 16, 2023
Conversations on Controversial Issues
Tim Purdon - Vail Symposium
Vail, CO
March 24, 2022
Indian Law Symposium
Tim Purdon - University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
November 29, 2021
WEBINAR | Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
Tim Purdon, Brendan Johnson, Casey Matthiesen, Stacey Slaughter - Hennepin County Bar Association
October 15, 2021
Indian Law 2021 Conference
Tim Purdon - Federal Bar Association Minnesota Chapter
Prior Lake, MN
March 6, 2020
Law Women’s Caucus Helen Hamilton Day
Tim Purdon - University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
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