Tohono O'odham Nation Continues Defending Plans for West Valley Casino; Opponents' Lawsuits Haven't Let Up
A U.S. District Court judge has scheduled a hearing on April 9 in an ongoing legal battle to block the Tohono O'odham Nation from building a casino in the West Valley.
An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed westside casino
Despite several back-to-back legal victories for the Nation, its opponents are not backing down.
"Throughout this process, the Nation has played by the rules and provided the clear facts, resulting in nine straight favorable decisions from courts and federal agencies," Chairman Ned Norris said. "Both the truth and the law are on the Nation's side, as has been demonstrated again and again in the courts."
Franks' office did not return calls for comment.
See also: Gila River Indian Community Attacks Sister Tribe With Federal Lawsuit See also: Glendale Officials Ordered to Pay Tohono O'odham Nation's Legal Fees See also: Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a West Valley Casino
U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell is weighing two key issues regarding the lawsuit filed by the State of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community against the Tohono O'odham Nation (TON) in early 2011.
One is whether land the Nation owns near 91st and Northern avenues was obtained as part of a settlement agreement reached between the tribe and the federal government in 1986. That settlement was meant to replace tribal lands devastated by flooding after the feds built a dam near San Lucy, one of the Nation's reservations near Gila Bend.
It's unclear why this particular issue is part of this lawsuit since the U.S. Secretary of the Interior decided in August 2010 that he was required -- based on that 1986 legal settlement agreement -- to take the Nation's land into trust. (Taking land into trust essentially means converting it into a reservation for the tribe.)
At that time, the Gila River Indian Community filed a lawsuit, and Judge Campbell agreed with U.S. Department of Interior officials, ruling in favor of the Nation. Opponents appealed Campbell's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court, too, sided with the Nation.
And yet, here is Judge Campbell again, considering it again.
A second issue before Campbell is whether permitting gaming on the tribe's West Valley property violates a gaming compact between tribes and the state that voters approved in 2002.
That compact outlines gaming-related details such as how many casinos and slot machines each tribe can operate, the number of card game tables and ATMs within each casino, and even how many people can sit at each poker or blackjack table.
The state and two other tribes claim that the Tohono O'odham leaders and representatives made comments made during hundreds of negotiation meetings between 1999 and 2002, agreeing there would be no more casinos in the Phoenix metro area.
The compact, however, doesn't actually say that. Or anything close to that.
Even if there had been some pinky-promise style of agreement, why wouldn't all parties involved and their hordes of attorneys make sure it was included in the gaming compact paraded in the public and approved by voters in 2002?
It wasn't a point lost on Campbell.