Opponents of the casino planned by The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria near Rohnert Park is fine tuning a legal challenge against the Department of Interior over the manner in which the federal government took the land into trust.
In May, a group called Stop the Casino 101 Coalition filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jerry Brown, alleging Brown had no right to sign a compact with the tribe. The group maintains that jurisdiction for the land was never ceded back to the federal government after California became a state. In other words, although the tribe may own the land, they don't actually hold sovereignty to it, according to the litigation.
Petaluma attorney Michael Healy, who represents the group, told Patch that he will file a similar complaint in federal court, alleging that the Department of Interior did not properly take the land into trust, meaning that California land use laws still apply.
Marilee Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the coalition said that even through "the federal government may hold title, it does not hold trust to the land."
Stop the Casino is led by Rohnert Park Assembly Pastor Chip Worthington. It's a secular organization that includes residents from throughout Sonoma County, Montgomery said.
She said the basis for the group's litigation is that when California became a state, the federal government ceded jurisdiction over all land in the state to the state government. The underlying issue is whether the state has ceded jurisdiction back to the federal government and whether, in turn, the federal government has properly taken the land into trust.
Some Indian Law experts say the lawsuit may delay the casino but is unlikely to stop it.
Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, did not respond to calls regarding the lawsuit.
Montgomery says thousands of people have lent their support to the opposition effort through donations and other means. Her primary concerns are over environmental issues, such as traffic and air pollution, she said.
What do you think of the complaint against the Department of the Interior? Are you concerned about the casino's impacts on Sonoma County?