BISMARCK - Former North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon will represent the Standing Rock Sioux tribal leaders who have been sued by Dakota Access LLC for protesting the pipeline construction.
Chairman Dave Archambault II and council member Dana Yellow Fat are among several defendants named in a civil case filed last week in federal court in Bismarck by Dakota Access. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are interfering with pipeline construction north of the reservation.
Purdon said he worked closely with Archambault while serving as U.S. attorney and he was asked to represent the tribal leaders.
"This case is about the parameters of the First Amendment in terms of tribal officials protesting here in North Dakota," Purdon said.
The complaint claims that Archambault, Yellow Fat and others tried to block Dakota Access employees from entering and exiting the construction site. The complaint also claims that Archambault excused all tribal employees from work on Aug. 12 and encouraged them to protest.
About 4,000 people were estimated to be at the protest site on Monday. Pipeline construction has been halted in that area since last week.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted a temporary restraining order against the tribal leaders and other defendants that prevents them from unlawfully protesting the pipeline construction.
A hearing was set for Thursday in the case, but has been postponed because Archambault plans to travel to Washington, D.C., for a hearing on Wednesday in the tribe's lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Purdon said.
The Bismarck hearing is now set for Sept. 8 to determine if a preliminary injunction should be issued. The temporary restraining order has been extended until Sept. 8, though Hovland wrote in his order that the parties are "strongly encouraged to meet and confer in good faith in an attempt to resolve this dispute prior to the hearing."
Archambault and Yellow Fat are among 29 people who have been arrested during the protest. Each faces a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in Morton County.
Purdon resigned as U.S. attorney for the district of North Dakota last year. He now works in private practice in Bismarck for national law firm Robins Kaplan, where he is co-chairman of the American Indian Law and Policy Practice Group.