Richard W. Hughes



  • Indian Law
  • Civil Litigation

Mr. Hughes joined the firm as a partner in September 1988, and started the firm's Indian law practice. Previously, he spent eight years in legal services on the Navajo Reservation, and ten years in an Albuquerque firm specializing in representation of Indian tribes and groups.

His practice continues to focus on representation of Indian tribes (mainly New Mexico Pueblos) and groups, in virtually all areas of federal Indian law, including jurisdictional disputes, water law, natural resources, gaming, land recovery, economic transactions, tribal codes, and others.


  • University of Virginia, B.A. 1967.
  • Yale Law School, LL.B. 1971


  • State Bar of New Mexico
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Federal, D.C., 9th and 10th Circuits
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico
  • State Bar of Colorado
  • Navajo Nation 


  • “Can the Trustee be Sued for Its Breach? The Sad Saga of United States v. Mitchell”, 26 S.Dak.L. Rev. 447 (1981);
  • “Indian Law” (Survey of Recent Developments), 12 N.M.L. Rev. 409 (1982);
  • “Indian Law” (Survey of Recent Developments), 18 N.M.L. Rev. 403 (1989);
  • Four Square Leagues: Pueblo Indian Land in New Mexico (with Malcolm Ebright and Rick Hendricks) (Albuquerque, UNM Press, 2014);
  • “Pueblo Indian Water Rights: Charting the Unknown,” 57 Nat. Resources J. 219 (2017).


Boos v. Yazzie, 6 Nav. R. 211, 17 Ind.L.R. 6115 (Nav.Sup.Ct.,1990)
Holding that appointment of legal services attorney to represent criminal defendant in Navajo court not violative of federal law restrictions on use of federal funds granted to legal services program.

Tracy v. Superior Court, 168 Ariz. 21, 810 P.2d 1030 (1991)
Holding that the Navajo Nation is the equivalent of a state for purposes of uniform act providing for enforcement of foreign state's subpoenas for attendance of witnesses in criminal trials.

Navajo Nation v. MacDonald, Sr., 6 Nav.R. 432, 19 Ind.L.R. 6053 (Nav.Sup.Ct.1991)
Affirming convictions of Peter MacDonald, Sr. on 41 counts of violations of Navajo law.

Navajo Nation v. MacDonald, Jr., 7 Nav.R. 1, 19 Ind.L.R. 6079 (Nav.Sup.Ct.1992)
Rejecting defendant's multiple claims of error in trial in which he was convicted of 23 counts of violations of Navajo law, but remanding for hearing on whether prosecution made improper use of defendant's immunized testimony.

Forest County Potawatomi Community v. Doyle, 803 F. Supp. 1526 (W.D. Wis. 1992)
Granting preliminary injunction to Indian tribe and private Indian school to prevent City of Milwaukee and state Attorney General from shutting down tribe's Class III gaming activities.

Forest County Potawatomi Community v. Norquist, 45 F.3d 1079 (7th Cir.1995)
Affirming permanent injunction against City of Milwaukee officials from interfering with tribe's Class III gaming activities.

Brown v. United States, 86 F.3d 1554 (Fed.Cir.1996)
Holding that Department of the Interior's actions with respect to commercial leasing of Indian trust land under 25 U.S.C. § 415 are subject to trust principles.

Harvey v. Star, 96 F.3d 1453 (Table) (10th Cir. 1996)
Holding that habeas corpus petitioner under 25 U.S.C. § 1303 must first exhaust tribal remedies.

Pueblo of Santa Ana v. United States, 214 F.3d 1338 (Fed.Cir. 2000)
Holding that government's removal of valuable rock and fill material from land held in trust for Pueblo, without compensation, was 5th amendment taking for which Pueblo was entitled to compensation, despite government's reserved use right in land.

Jepsen v. Vigil-Giron, 29 Indian L.Rep. 5105 (Bern.Co.Dist.Ct., N.M., Jan. 24, 2002)
Holding that current districting plan for state house of representatives violates federal Voting Rights Act by diluting votes of Navajo Indians, and Navajo plan for northwestern portion of state best remedies that violation.

Kennedy v. Hughes, 60 Fed. Appx. 734 (10th Cir. 2003)
Holding that plaintiff could not sue tribe or tribal officials in federal court under Indian Civil Rights Act after tribal court had heard and considered claim and had dismissed complaint on sovereign immunity grounds.

Boyd & Ramona Lawson, 159 IBLA 184 (2003)
Holding that applicants had proven that homestead patent issued in 1888 to grandfather of one of applicants did not, as subsequently surveyed, include the homesite and other improvements on which the claim of entry was based, and that applicants were entitled to issuance of corrected patent to include the wrongfully omitted lands.

Picuris Pueblo v. Oglebay Norton Company, 228 F.R.D. 665 (D.N.M. 2005)
Holding that United States is not indispensable party to claim by tribe that land patented under federal mining laws is subject to tribal aboriginal title.

R & R Deli, Inc., v. Santa Ana Star Casino, 2006-NMCA-020, 139 N.M. 85, 128 P.3d 513
Holding that suit by lessee of tribal gaming enterprise against tribe and enterprise was barred by tribal sovereign immunity.

State v. Romero, 2006-NMSC-039, 142 P.3d 887, cert. denied, U.S. (2007)
Holding that privately owned land inside the boundaries of Pueblo Indian grants in New Mexico continue to be Indian country, such that crimes by or against Indians on such lands are subject to exclusive federal (or tribal), not state, jurisdiction.

Burrell v. Armijo, 603 F.3d 825 (10th Cir. 2010)
Holding that Pueblo Governor who directed non-Indian lessee of tribal lands not to bale hay at night, due to complaints about noise, was acting within the scope of his authority as Governor, and was thus protected by Pueblo's sovereign immunity from suit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 alleging that Governor deprived lessee of contract rights based on racial animus; reversing $1.347 millon federal jury verdict.

Pueblo of Santa Ana v. Nash, 854 F. Supp.2d 1128 (D.N.M. 2012)
Holding that suit to enjoin state court judge from hearing tort suit against tribal gaming enterprise, on ground of exclusive tribal court jurisdiction, is not barred by Rooker-Feldman doctrine, or by Anti-Injunction Act, that Younger abstention is not appropriate and that state was not indispensable party.

Pueblo of Santa Ana v. Nash, 972 F.Supp.2d 1254 (D.N.M. 2013)
Holding that tort suits against tribal gaming enterprise may only be brought in tribal court; IGRA does not allow parties to agree to transfer jurisdiction over such cases to state courts.

Pecos River Open Spaces, Inc., v. County of San Miguel, 2013-NMCA-029, ___ N.M. ___ (Jan. 11, 2013)
Holding that the preservation of vacant, undeveloped property determined by the state Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources to have significant natural values, solely for conservation purposes, by a qualified conservation organization, is a charitable purpose, and such property is therefore exempt from property tax under the New Mexico constitution.

Pueblo of Isleta, et al., v. Lujan Grisham, No. 17-654 (D.N.M., Mar. 30, 2019), 2019 WL 1429586
Holding that redemption of “free play” credits in gaming machines by casino patrons does not constitute “revenue” for which revenue sharing payments are owed to the State.

United States v. Abousleman, 976 F.3d 1146 (10th Cir.2020)
Holding that only an affirmative act of the sovereign, manifesting an intent to extinguish aboriginal rights, could extinguish Pueblo aboriginal water rights; reversing district court decision that mere extension of Spanish sovereignty over New Mexico extinguished Pueblos' aboriginal water rights.