No “Magic Words” Needed – What Tribes Need to Know about Bankruptcy in Light of the Supreme Court Decision in Lac du Flambeau v. Coughlin


Last month, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Coughlin, holding that Native
American tribes are not immune from certain bankruptcy court
proceedings, including the automatic stay provision of the Bankruptcy

The case involved an online payday lending operation owned by a tribal government.  When a customer sought relief in bankruptcy court, an appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tribe’s claims that sovereign immunity prohibited the customer from enforcing the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay against it.

On July 27th from 1pm to 2:30pm Eastern Time, NAFOA is proud to host a webinar. Attorneys from Navajo Nation and the law firm Sheppard Mullin will discuss what the ruling means, what tribes should be aware of going forward, and the impact this ruling will have on tribes going forward.  The webinar will cover:

  • Bankruptcy Basics
  • Background on Lac du Flambeau vs Coughlin
  • Impact and Mitigation of the Lac du Flambeau vs Coughlin Decision

About Our Presenters

Paul Spruhan is Assistant Attorney General of the Litigation Unit at the Navajo Nation Department of Justice in Window Rock, Arizona.  In that capacity, he litigates civil cases in federal, Navajo Nation, and state courts on a wide range of issues, including tribal sovereignty, environmental regulation, and labor and employment

Christine Swanick is a Partner at the law firm, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.  She has practiced federal Native American law for over 25 years. Christine advises clients in all aspects of federal Native American law and tribal law matters and represents tribes and entities doing business with tribes in complex contractual, financial, gaming, regulatory and economic development matters.  Christine began her legal career working in-house for three different tribal nations.  She is now nationally recognized in tribal lending and restructuring transactions of all kinds and has worked on over 150 Native American and gaming credit transactions involving more than 50 different Native American tribes.

Barret Marum is Partner at the law firm, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, practicing out of the firm’s San Diego and Silicon Valley California offices.  He practices in the areas of bankruptcy law and commercial litigation and has experience representing parties involved in complex insolvency proceedings, including representing creditors and other parties in pre-bankruptcy litigation, workout negotiations and bankruptcy proceedings.

For any other questions or concerns, please contact Nicholas Lovesee, Director of Policy, at


NAFOA Announces Former Yurok Tribal Leader Susan Masten As Interim Executive Director

NAFOA, founded as the Native American Finance Officers Association, names former Yurok Tribal Leader Susan Masten as its interim executive director effective today, June 1, 2023. She was appointed to the position by the NAFOA Board of Directors. As interim executive director, Masten will be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the organization, as well as leading its strategic direction.

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