Professional Profile

Stephen V. Quesenberry

Of Counsel

Stephen Quesenberry began his career in Indian law in 1975 as an attorney with the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington (STOWW) after spending a year as a VISTA attorney with the former Seattle Legal Services Center. From his early experience working with Washington tribes, which were asserting their treaty fishing rights in the face of fierce resistance by the State of Washington, Stephen developed a deep commitment to tribal sovereignty and the federally protected rights inherent in that status. Since then, he has represented numerous tribes and individual Indians on a wide range of issues in a practice that has spanned four decades and involved work on Indian reservations in the States of Washington and California. After a long career in Indian legal services, including 15 years as the Director of Litigation for California Indian Legal Services (1985-2000), Stephen entered private practice with the law firm of Karshmer & Associates in 2003, where he continued his representation of tribes. He joined Hobbs Straus in 2011.

Stephen has represented Indian tribal governments and individual Indians in federal agency proceedings and at federal and state trial and appellate court levels. He has briefed and argued cases before the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, numerous federal district courts, and the California appellate courts. His advocacy has encompassed a broad range of Indian law issues, including tribal licensing and regulatory authority, protection of Native American cultural and sacred sites, eligibility for and allocation of Indian education grant funds, tribal sovereign immunity, tribal and individual Indian immunity from state taxation, restoration of terminated tribes, and protection of federally reserved water and fishing rights. He has extensive experience in the area of legislative advocacy, having drafted and successfully advocated for passage of federal legislation providing for transfer of Bureau of Land Management lands to eight California tribes and for restoration of two terminated California tribes. His experience regarding issues of federal acknowledgment and individual Indian status spans four decades, including serving as legal consultant to the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy in submitting its 1997 reports and recommendations to the United States Congress on the unique status problems of the California tribes. He has served as an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and the University of San Francisco School of Law, teaching courses and seminars in Federal Indian Law and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He has also represented indigenous interests at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and completed the summer course in human rights law at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Stephen enjoys international travel with his family, jogging, and poetry of all genres and cultures.

Selected Publications

“Tribal Strategies for Protecting and Preserving Groundwater,” William Mitchell Law Review Vol. 41, Issue 2 (2015)

“Recent United Nations Initiatives Concerning the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 21:3 (1997) 231-260

Book Review of “Defying the Odds: The Tule River Tribe’s Struggle for Sovereignty in Three Centuries” by Gelya Frank and Carole Goldberg (Yale University Press, 2010) in American Indian Culture and Research Journal 36:2 (2012) 179-183.


Loyola University School of Law, J.D., 1974
International Institute of Human Rights, Participation Certificate – 1995 Annual Study Session
California State University, B.A., 1967

Bar Admissions

United States Supreme Court
United States Court of Appeals-9th Circuit
United States Court of Federal Claims
United States District Courts: W.D. Washington; E.D. California; N.D. California; S.D. California; C.D. California
State of California

Practice Concentration:

Self-Determination & Self-Governance
Programs & Services
Economic Development
Natural Resources
International Indigenous Rights