Keith Harper, who focuses his practice on litigation and Native American affairs, was part of the legal team that settled one of the largest class-action cases against the federal government—Cobell v. Salazar, the long-running Indian trust case in Washington. Harper, through an assistant, declined to comment. The nomination requires Senate confirmation.
Harper, along with attorneys from Kilpatrick and two solo practitioners, represented a class of almost 500,000 Native Americans in a suit alleging that the federal government had mismanaged billions of dollars for the use of natural resources on Indian land. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion, with $99 million in attorneys' fees.
The government paid out about $86 million shared among solo practitioners Dennis Gingold and Thaddeus Holt and Kilpatrick partners William Dorris, Elliott Levitas and David Smith. It was the largest attorney fee payout by the federal government in 2012.
The payout helped aid in the firm's strong financial performance during 2012. In this year's Am Law 100 survey, Kilpatrick posted gross revenues of $406.5 million for 2012, 12.3 percent more than the previous year. The firm had the second highest increase in profits per partner—36.5 percent—to $860,000. Revenue per lawyer also jumped—16.7 percent—to $735,000.
Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, started his legal career as a litigation associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. He was formerly a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund from 1995 to 2006. Harper then served on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court.
Harper would replace Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the current ambassador. The U.N. created the council in 2006 to promote and protect human rights throughout the world.
Photo by The National Law Journal's Diego M. Radzinschi.