May 202011

The State Bar of Arizona has determined that an investigation into the agreement between attorney Robert J. Lyttle and the Hopi Tribe is not warranted.

After reviewing allegations made by Benjamin H. Nuvamsa against Lyttle, who serves as the Hopi Tribe’s chief legal counsel, the bar issued a letter stating: “After our review of the charge, we have determined that no further investigation is warranted at this time. We therefore consider this file dismissed.”

In its response to Nuvamsa just six days after he filed the complaint, the bar also wrote: “There does not appear to be anything overtly deceptive about his billing.” The letter also stated that Nuvamsa’s disagreement with the arrangements made by the Hopi Tribal Council and Lyttle is insufficient to establish ethical misconduct.

The letter further stated that there were no other grounds to establish an ethical violation.

Curtis Honanie, chief of staff for the Hopi Tribe, said it is important to note that Nuvamsa made the accusations on his own and did not represent the Hopi Tribe in any way.

“The State Bar takes complaints against attorneys very seriously,” Honanie said. “The fact that Mr. Nuvamsa was so quickly and soundly rebuffed by the bar is an indication of the lack of credibility and absurdity of the accusations. And this process reaffirms that Mr. Lyttle can continue to serve as legal counsel to the Hopi Tribe.”

Lyttle, who has more than 22 years’ experience representing Indian tribes on a wide variety of matters, said he was not surprised with the bar’s ruling since the complaint was unfounded.

“We are glad to be able to put this matter behind us and continue moving forward representing the Hopi Tribe on several critical legal issues facing the tribe,” Lyttle said. “Hopefully, the result of this third-party review will end the negativity and what I perceive to be personal vendettas against me, the chairman and members of the tribal council.”