Michael L. Murphy - Shareholder

Phone number: 
(651) 644-4710
(651) 644-5904

Since joining the firm in 2014, Michael has worked closely with tribal councils, departments, and enterprises to give sound advice on their governance and economic initiatives.  His practice centers on delivering prompt, practical, and sustainable legal solutions to his clients.

Drawing from his thorough knowledge of federal Indian law and its intricacies, Michael has helped clients develop tribal constitutions and laws, expand jurisdictional authority, take land into trust, negotiate intergovernmental agreements, secure financing, manage gaming operations, and build successful enterprises.  In addition to counseling elected leaders, department directors, and business managers on the day-to-day legal issues that they face, Michael advances his clients’ interests in court.  He has successfully litigated cases before federal, state, and tribal courts that involved treaty rights, property rights, sovereign immunity, complex jurisdictional and commercial issues, and the protection of cultural and natural resources. 

Michael’s legal practice includes his work as a mediator, consultant, and educator.  He has served as a neutral and mediator for commercial and family disputes before tribal courts.  Michael has conducted comprehensive assessments of justice systems, which educate decision makers on the tools courts need to operate efficiently and increase access to justice.  He is an Associate Adjunct Professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where he has taught Introduction to Tribal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Transactions and Settlements.  Michael speaks at local and international conferences on topics that have varied from land tenure in Indian country, sovereign immunity, and the relationship between formal and informal justice systems. 

Before joining the firm, Michael worked for the Regional Native Public Defense Corporation, where he defended White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake tribal members against criminal charges brought in Minnesota’s district courts.  Prior to his public defense work, Michael served the Papua New Guinea National and Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre as a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholarship in Law recipient and later consulted for the World Bank. 

Apart from his work and banter with colleagues, Michael loves exploring life with his wife, listening to people’s stories, traveling, camping, and sitting around a fire with friends.  

Selected Cases:

  • Wolfchild v. Redwood County, et al., 91 F.Supp.3d 1093 (D. Minn. 2015) (dismissing suit claiming title to the Lower Sioux Indian Community’s reservation lands for lack of jurisdiction because the tribe—as a sovereign—is immune from suit).    
  • Wolfchild v. Redwood County, et al., 824 F.3d 761 (8th Cir. 2016), (affirming district court on separate grounds), cert denied, 580 U.S. 2 (2016).
  • Childs v. Prairie Island Indian Community, File No. CIV-0426-17 (PIIC Court 2017) (affirming tribal governing body’s authority over homesite assignments on tribe’s reservation). 
  • Durfee v. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, et al., Case No.: CV-003-18 (FDL Tribal Court 2018) (dismissing tribal employee’s Family and Medical Leave Act claim against the Band).
  • Matter of Reissuance of NPDES/SDS Permit to United States Steel Corp., Nos. A18-2094, 2095, 2159, and 2163, 2019 WL 6691515 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 9 2019) (finding in favor of the Fond du Lac Band (and the amici curiae seven federally recognized Indian tribes), court held that state agency issued mining license in violation of Minnesota law and the federal Clean Water Act).   
Areas of Practice: 
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Civil Litigation
  • Indian/Tribal Law
  • J.D. William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2012 / Cum Laude
  • B.A. University of Dallas, Irving, Texas, 2008 / Magna Cum Laude, Academic
Bar Admissions: 
  • Minnesota
Admitted to Practice: 
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • U.S District Court of Minnesota
  • Chitimacha Tribal Court
  • Lower Sioux Indian Community Tribal Court
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Judicial Branch
  • Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Court
  • Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Court