Tribal dances begin

On this page the public and press will find background materials and court filings on the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation’s civil rights lawsuits in federal and state courts against the Attorney General of New Jersey.

Please direct all press inquiries to Greg Werkheiser at (703) 408-2002.

Status of the Cases

The Tribe has filed two lawsuits: one in state court alleging violations of the New Jersey Constitution, and one in federal court alleging violations of the United States Constitution. The Tribe alleges that New Jersey’s Attorney General’s has unilaterally attempted to undermine the Tribe’s status as a state-recognized tribe. He has done so in violation of the Tribe’s rights to procedural and substantive due process, and to equal protection. The Tribe has suffered and continues to suffer immediate and serious harm as a consequence of these violations.

The Attorney General filed motions to dismiss both cases. The federal court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to the Tribe’s claims of procedural due process and equal protection. The state court granted the motion to dismiss in full, but has been overturned by the Appellate Court, which held that the Tribe may proceed with all of its claims. Consequently, both cases are live and moving forward toward trial.

Press Release


New Jersey Tribe Wins Appeal; Has Green-light to Proceed with Civil Rights Lawsuit Against New Jersey Attorney General

Trenton, New Jersey – July 10, 2017– A three-judge panel of the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division today reversed a decision by the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, providing a green-light to the 3,000-member Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation to proceed in its civil rights lawsuit against New Jersey’s Attorney General. The appellate court held: “We reverse because we find the court applied the wrong legal standard and incorrectly failed to accept plaintiff’s factual allegations in the complaint as true.”

Read the decision

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation and two other tribes have been recognized by the state of New Jersey for 35 or more years. The Tribe, whose population is severely economically distressed, relied on basic federal benefits tied to its status, including grants for diabetes care and education, and the ability to label their crafts as “Indian made.”

In 2012, however, on behalf of the Christie administration, the Attorney General took the position that New Jersey has no recognized American Indian tribes. This abrupt about-face has led to devastating economic and social consequences for the tribes as access to federal programs has been withdrawn or threatened.

The Tribe was compelled to sue for violations of the New Jersey Constitution in state court and the US Constitution in federal court, alleging unlawful discrimination and violation of their rights to due process and equal protection of the laws.

On October 27, 2016 the federal court dismissed the Attorney General’s Motion to Dismiss in a pointed 42-page opinion. In that case the parties are deep into discovery, with the Tribe preparing to soon depose key state officials.

Read the decision:

The state court, in contrast, dismissed the Tribe’s complaint in its entirety. Today’s decision reverses the state court’s decision. Thus, the Tribe is pursuing active cases in both courts.

Tribal Co-Chief Mark Gould said, “We are deeply grateful and prayerful for the Appellate Court’s carefully considered decision.”

“Five judges in two courts have now told the Attorney General in detailed written opinions that if the facts alleged by the Tribe are true, the Tribe has legitimate claims for constitutional civil rights violations. One wonders how much clearer a message the defendant requires to realize the error of his actions,” said Greg Werkheiser, counsel for the Tribe.

Photos for press use

The Tribe is represented pro bono by Greg Werkheiser and Eden Burgess of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC ( and Frank Corrado of Barry, Corrado & Grassi, PC of Wildwood, New Jersey ( Cultural Heritage Partners is headquartered in Washington, DC, and with offices in Europe, is a global law, government affairs, and strategy firm that handles issues related to cultural heritage, historic preservation, art and antiquities, and museums. Barry, Corrado & Grassi, PC is a law firm representing clients in civil rights, personal injury, real estate, criminal defense, and employment matters.


Greg Werkheiser, Founding Partner

Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC

(703) 408-2002

2101 L Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20037


Key Pleadings


Media Coverage

The Tribe makes no representation as to the accuracy of the media items below.