Suzanne (Susi) Schaeffer is a member of the Public Policy and Regulation and the Native American Law and Policy practices. She concentrates her practice on Indian lands and environmental compliance issues. Susi draws on her years of experience in both the federal government and private sector working to resolve legal issues pertaining to Indian lands, natural resources and the federal environmental regulatory system.
Susi advises clients in acquiring land in trust for both gaming and non-gaming purposes pursuant to the fee-to-trust authorities of the US Department of the Interior (DOI), and she has extensive experience working with the department to achieve clients’ land acquisition objectives. She is also well versed in other Indian lands issues, including land claims, leasing and rights-of-way over Indian lands, and Section 81 approval requirements.
Susi has particular expertise in handling environmental compliance issues on Indian lands, and she regularly counsels clients regarding compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as other environmental requirements in conjunction with acquiring land in trust. She also provides advice regarding environmental regulatory and jurisdictional issues, such as tribal environmental ordinances and the extent of state, tribal and federal permitting authority. She has participated at a number of conferences as an invited speaker on Indian land, energy and environmental matters. In addition, Susi is very familiar with the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and has significant experience working with both the DOI and the National Indian Gaming Commission on gaming matters. This experience serves as a foundation for providing strategic and practical advice to clients regarding tribal gaming ordinances, management contracts, Indian lands issues and other matters related to the development of Indian gaming facilities. She also advises clients regarding federal acknowledgment and federal funding issues.
Honors and Awards
- Best Lawyers ranking, 2013-2014
Activities and Affiliations
- "New California Indian Casino Update," California Gaming Law Summit, January 15–16, 2015, Los Angeles, CA
- Member, American Bar Association, Section of Environment,
Energy & Resources
- Member, District of Columbia Bar, Environment, Energy and
Natural Resources Section
Prior and Present Employment
Prior to going into private practice, Susi served in key positions in the DOI and the US Department of Justice (DOJ). At the DOI, she provided legal advice to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on a wide variety of environmental matters arising on Indian lands, and from 2000 to 2005 she served as the Assistant Solicitor for Environment, Land & Minerals. Her duties included providing legal advice and supervising legal work involving all aspects of the acquisition, sale, development, leasing, use and conservation of Indian lands and natural resources, including fee-to-trust acquisitions, compliance with the NEPA, and the nature and extent of the federal government’s trust obligations. During her tenure with the federal government, Susi received numerous awards and honors and developed excellent professional contacts and a unique perspective on and understanding of the components of the federal government that make and influence Native American policy and legal positions. At the DOJ, she was responsible for litigation to enforce all major environmental statutes, including Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (commonly known as Superfund) enforcement and natural resource damage actions, as well as the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act/Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Several of these cases involved tribal natural resource trustees, tribally owned facilities, violations of environmental statutes in Indian country and tribal regulatory jurisdiction issues.
Prior to joining SNR Denton, Susi was of counsel at Patton Boggs LLP in its Washington, DC, office.
Upon her graduation from law school, she served as a law clerk for the Honorable J. Calvitt Clarke, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.