Chris is a proud Tribal member of the Chickasaw Nation. The maternal side of Chris’ family resided near Ardmore, Oklahoma, in the heart of modern-day Chickasaw country. Chris’ great-great grandfather, Dave Seely, was a member of the Chickasaw Legislature in 1905-06, where he served as one of the original Senators of the Chickasaw Nation, and as an interpreter to the U.S. Government.
Chris began his legal education at Cornell Law School in 1982, and graduated in 1985 with a Juris Doctorate degree, with a Specialization in International Legal Affairs. After his first year at law school, Chris clerked at the law firm of Kirk & Chaney, and after his second year of law school, Chris clerked at the law firm of McAfee & Taft; both firms being located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
During the summer of 1981, Chris attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, as a Native American representative to the school’s minority public policy program.
Chris attended the University of Oklahoma, where he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Letters in 1982. Upon graduation, Chris received a special award and honors for maintaining a 4.0/4.0 grade point average throughout his undergraduate studies. Chris was on the Arts and Sciences Dean’s list for eight consecutive semesters; completed the requisites for honors studies in the Letters program, and served on the Arts and Sciences Department’s Academic Appeals Board. During his time at the University of Oklahoma, Chris was a member of the University of Oklahoma American Indian Student Association. Chris was accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta honorary societies, and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha social fraternity. While at OU, Chris was a recipient of several scholarships, including the University Scholars scholarship and the OU Alumni Association scholarship.
LEGAL WORK EXPERIENCE
CROWELL LAW OFFICE/TRIBAL ADVOCACY GROUP, 2013-present
In late 2013, Chris was honored to accept an invitation from Scott Crowell to join Crowell Law Office/Tribal Advocacy Group. As a member of the Crowell Law Office/Tribal Advocacy Group team, Chris will continue his general representation of Tribal clients, and will focus on the areas of gaming, including negotiation and documentation with consultants, management companies, vendors and other entities in all aspects of the gaming business; real estate, including real estate acquisition, maintenance, financing, and fee-to-trust transfers; legislation and governmental relations, including the preparation and negotiation of proposed legislation and dealing with federal, state and local officials; and other contract preparation and negotiation required for the protection of Tribal governmental and business interests.
ALABAMA-COUSHATTA TRIBE OF TEXAS, General Counsel, 2001-2013; Counsel, 2013-present
In 2001, Chris accepted an invitation by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to become its first General Counsel. Chris worked as General Counsel for Alabama-Coushatta from 2001 until 2013, at which time he became and remains an independent counsel for the Tribe. During his time with Alabama-Coushatta, Chris handled a variety of issues, focusing on the Tribe’s gaming efforts, business matters, and land acquisition. Of particular note, Chris worked closely with Scott Crowell on both a state and national level to pursue the Tribe’s right to conduct gaming on its Tribal lands, including dealing with legislators and representing the Tribe in gaming litigation with the State of Texas. Chris is especially proud that, during his time with Alabama-Coushatta, the Tribe was able to open and operate, albeit temporarily, its first gaming operation, and the Tribe was able to more than double its reservation land base. Chris continues to maintain a close relationship with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, and to work closely with its Tribal Council on contract, real estate and other matters.
CROWELL LAW OFFICES, Attorney, 1999-2001
In 1999, Chris joined the firm of Crowell Law Offices at its San Diego, California location, where in keeping with the firm’s mission, he represented Tribal clients exclusively. At Crowell Law Offices, Chris had the opportunity to represent a variety of Tribal clients, focusing primarily on business matters, and the preparation and negotiation of a wide variety of legal documentation. Representative clients included the Tule River Tribe, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, the Manzanita Tribe and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. While at Crowell Law Offices, Chris also had the opportunity to represent the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians in its dealings with Harrah’s Gaming, culminating in the development of the Harrah’s Rincon Casino, currently one of the largest Tribal gaming operations in California.
SHOSHONE-BANNOCK TRIBES, General Counsel, 1996-1999
Chris served as General Counsel to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes at Fort Hall Indian Reservation from 1996-1999. As General Counsel for Shoshone-Bannock, Chris worked on the Reservation and focused primarily on Tribal business matters, working directly with the Tribal Council and its individual members to promote and protect Tribal interests. Of particular note, Chris handled the negotiations between the Tribe and the U.S. Department of the Navy arising out the transportation of spent naval nuclear fuel across the Reservation; negotiations which resulted in a substantial settlement in favor of the Tribe. Chris also represented the Tribe in its gaming operations, which led to his long-standing association with attorney Scott Crowell, and Chris and Scott worked together on the negotiation and finalization of a favorable gaming compact between the Tribe and the State of Idaho. Working for Shoshone-Bannock provided Chris with unique “in the trenches” experience in working with Tribal Councils and individual Tribal members, experience that Chris relies upon daily in his representation of Tribal clients.
AMERICAN GENERAL CORPORATION, Senior Counsel, 1993-1996
Chris joined American General Corporation, a Fortune 100 company, in 1993 as a senior counsel in the real estate group. At American General, Chris worked with a team of internal real estate development professionals, and managed numerous outside law firms, to guide and protect the client’s large-scale residential real estate development operations. More particularly, Chris held primary legal responsibility for the development of Cinco Ranch and Greatwood, two major residential real estate developments featuring luxury homes, golf courses and club houses, swimming pools, recreation areas, and numerous other infrastructure facilities. During his time at American General, Chris had the opportunity to coordinate the donation of legal books from American General to the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, a project which helped fuel Chris’ career transition from corporate to Tribal representation.
BUTLER & BINION LAW FIRM, Associate and Senior Associate, 1985-1993
Upon graduation from law school and passage of the Texas bar examination, Chris went to work for Butler & Binion, one of the “big four” downtown law firms in Houston, Texas. Chris worked in the firm’s real estate section from 1985-1993. At Butler & Binion, Chris had the opportunity to represent both large and small clients in a variety of sophisticated real estate matters, including real estate financing, real estate acquisition, project development, contract drafting, and deal negotiation. Representative clients included Armco Steel, First Interstate Bank, and First Bank System of Minneapolis. As one of the lead attorneys representing the FSLIC and RTC during their takeover of failed savings and loan associations, Chris was one of the first attorneys to walk through the door at Western Savings and Loan Association during its takeover, and to uncover numerous discrepancies in its real estate loan practices. During his time at Butler & Binion, Chris learned first-hand the need for precise drafting of documents to accurately reflect his clients’ intentions and needs; a skill which Chris relies upon heavily to this day.
Texas Bar Association, 1985-present
Member, Native American Law Section
Idaho Bar Association, 1997-present
Chris lives in San Diego, California. He has two daughters, Elizabeth (23) and Katy (18). Elizabeth attends Brown University, where she studies Native American affairs in the doctorate program. Katy is also at Brown University, in the undergraduate program. Chris’ personal interests include sports car racing (he is a member of the Trefethen Family Vineyards racing team), surfing and powwows.