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Professional Biography
Michelle LaPena



Michelle L. LaPena is experienced in a broad spectrum of tribal legal matters including tribal gaming operations and regulation, cultural resource protection, Indian child welfare, tribal taxation, administrative law and general civil litigation involving tribal governments. She is extensively involved in developing statewide policy on tribal taxation, gaming regulation and cultural resource protection.  In 1999, she negotiated a tribal-state gaming compact with the State of California.  Since that time, she has worked with gaming tribes to implement complex terms in their compacts, including licensing procedures for gaming resource suppliers, revenue sharing distribution to non-gaming tribes and public safety.

Prior to entering private practice, she edited and contributed significantly to reports that were submitted to Congress in August 1997 by the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy. She has served as a trainer for the National Indian Gaming Association, Gaming Regulator Certificate Program and lectured at primary, secondary and university levels on topics related to California Indians and federal Indian law.

In 2003, Michelle was appointed to the Governor’s Children’s Justice Act Task Force which allocates Title IV-E money to child abuse prevention programs in the state of California. Michelle is a member of the Pit River Indian Tribe, and is admitted to practice in California, all federal district courts in California, and the Hoopa Valley Tribal Court.  She received her B.A. in 1993 and her J.D. in 1998, both from the University of California, Davis.  She was recently featured on the cover of Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine.



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