Suzanne (Susi) Schaeffer is a member of the Public Policy and Regulation practice and the Native American Law and Policy practice. She concentrates her practice on Indian lands and environmental compliance issues. Susi draws on her years of experience in both the federal government and the 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 DOI 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 experience 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. She has significant experience working with both the DOI and the National Indian Gaming Commission on gaming matters, and she has spoken at several conferences on Indian gaming issues. 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, 2013–2015
In the Media
- Quoted source, "HEARTH Act Worth The Hassle For Native American Tribes," Law360, May 01, 2015
- Quoted source, "5 Tips For Negotiating Native American Land Leases," Law360, April 24, 2015
Activities and Affiliations
- "New California Indian Casino Update," California Gaming Law Summit, January 15–16, 2015, Los Angeles, CA
- Speaker, "NEPA and the Federal Gaming Approval Process," NIGA Indian Gaming 2013 Tradeshow and Convention, March 2013
- Moderator, "Acquisition of Land in Trust for Gaming: Recent Developments and Future Prospects," NIGA Indian Gaming 2012 Tradeshow and Convention, April 2012
- Speaker, "Getting the Deals Done: Tips for Building the Relationships Necessary to Get the Project Done," Law Seminars International Fourth Annual Strategic Conference on Tribal Energy Development, June 2010
- Speaker, "Fee-to-Trust and NEPA: Navigating the Federal Process," Falmouth Institute's Indian Law Governance Seminar, September 2007
- District of Columbia Bar, Environment, Energy and
Natural Resources Section
- Federal Bar Association, Indian Law Section
- Native American Bar Association
Prior and Present Employment
Prior to going into private practice, Susi served in key positions at 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 and 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 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 enforcement of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) 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 Dentons, Susi was 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 US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.