The Founding of Hobbs Straus

Long before opening our doors in 1982, the founding members of Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker laid the groundwork for what is now a national Indian law firm. Their long involvement with tribal governance and sovereignty has helped us to meet our clients’ challenges in the context of Indian law’s past, present, and future.

Our history includes significant efforts from our founders, some prior to the establishment of Hobbs Straus. In 1968, Charles Hobbs argued Menominee Tribe v. United States 391 U.S. 404 (1968), which held that when Congress terminates Indian tribes, the tribes retain their treaty rights unless specifically nullified. The case is one of five argued by Mr. Hobbs before the United States Supreme Court.

Two years later, in 1970, Jerry Straus led the successful legislative effort to have Congress return the 48,000-acre sacred Blue Lake lands to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico. This marked the first successful large-scale restoration of historic land to an Indian tribe.

From 1970 to 1971, Bobo Dean assisted the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida in negotiating the first tribal contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), under which an entire BIA agency was administered by a tribal government. This contract became one of the models for the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) that passed Congress in 1975. Since our beginning, Hobbs Straus has participated in seeking legislative amendments and regulations to strengthen tribal negotiations under the ISDEAA with the BIA and the Indian Health Service.

In 1983, Charles Hobbs, along with Marsha Schmidt, argued and won the precedent-setting case,United States v. Mitchell 463 U.S. 206 (1983), in which the Supreme Court held that the United States must pay damages when it mismanages Indian trust property. As a result, the allottees of the Quinault Reservation in Washington were awarded $27 million in compensation. This groundbreaking case set the foundation for the modern recognition of the federal trust responsibility.

Partner Hans Walker complements our historical impact with his notable service as general counsel for the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota from 1960-1965. Additionally, from 1965-1982, Mr. Walker held several posts in the U.S. Department of the Interior including Assistant Solicitor of Indian Affairs before joining Hobbs Straus in 1988.

In the gaming and economic development area, Jerry Straus forged the way delivering the first legal opinion on electronically assisted Class II gaming devices for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1988. Furthermore, Mr. Straus represented the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut in its successful 1995 effort to establish a major casino through the first issuance of commercial bonds to finance construction of an Indian casino. Our firm took an active role in helping draft the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and participates in joint tribal efforts to oppose federal legislation and regulations curtailing Indian gaming rights.

To this day, Hobbs Straus continues to serve the interests of our tribal clients with focused commitment and excellence. Our dedication and history propel us forward as we address the most critical challenges facing tribal governments in the 21st century.