A federal judge in North Dakota ruled on Nov. 17 that the rights of two Native American tribes were violated when lawmakers in the state created legislative districts after the 2020 Census that diluted those tribes’ voting strength.
The case was brought by a team that included Tim Purdon, a 1994 Mitchell Hamline graduate who was co-counsel in the case that argued the maps violated the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The judge in the case gave the North Dakota legislature and secretary of state until Dec. 22 to fix the violation. State officials have announced plans to appeal the decision.
Purdon was part of the trial team that argued two separate things happened to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe. For Turtle Mountain, the issue was packing members into one house district. For Spirit Lake, it was splitting them between districts to prevent creating a majority Native house district. The tribes had unsuccessfully attempted to have lawmakers create a joint district that encompassed both tribal reservations.
“I’m hopeful that the Legislature will take a look at this, adopt the plan proposed by the tribes and stop the litigation, stop the spend of dollars on this litigation,” Purdon told the Associated Press.
Purdon has been a partner at Robins Kaplan since leaving his position as U.S. attorney for North Dakota in 2015. He’s worked extensively on cases in Indian Country, including a landmark case last year that produced historic agreements in a large opioid case between Tribal Nations and three major drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson.
“Opening a Robins Kaplan office in Bismarck in 2015 has given me a great platform to take on important cases like this,” said Purdon. “It’s helped bring tremendous resources to bear for the tribes and our other clients in North Dakota.”
Judge finds Voting Rights Act violation in North Dakota redistricting for two tribes (Associated Press)
In wake of Voting Rights Act ruling, North Dakota to appeal decision that protected tribes’ rights (Associated Press)