Sacramento lawyer Howard Dickstein, 67, earned his riches representing California Indian tribes—cutting deals with governors and paving the way for the state’s $7 billion-a-year Indian casino industry, reported the Sacramento Bee.
But recently the man—who helped defend about 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement against charges stemming from the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation—has come under the microscope for amassing great wealth at the expense of his clients.
Dickstein negotiated the compacts for three of the region’s top casinos: Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel, Cache Creek Casino Resort and Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Contract terms required the immensely successful Thunder Valley to give 2 percent of its share to Dickstein’s firm until 2009—funneling about $23 million Dickstein’s way. But the Sacramento Bee reports that legal experts and rival tribal lawyers say the arrangement is unusual. Dickstein defends every dollar. “A tribe’s financial relationship with me is a phenomenal net benefit to the tribe,” he said.
Now two banned members of the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns Thunder Valley, are suing Dickstein for duping the tribe into paying $26 million in fees over six years.
Allegations against Dickstein are nothing new. The Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians (now known as the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation), owner of Cache Creek, sued Dickstein and his two business partners for effectively taking control of the tribe and profiting through suspicious land deals, meanwhile pulling in excessive fees and traveling on a jet funded by the tribe. The suit claims Dickstein’s firm netted $18 million (one-half of 1 percent of Cache Creek’s profits) from 1993 and 2006, when he was terminated.
Read more about the Villanova University School of Law-trained lawyer and former Malaysia-based law professor whose path to riches has garnered him criticism, backlash and lawsuits on the Sacramento Bee.