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Casino Opponents Challenging Department of Interior in Court

Represented by Petaluma attorney and councilman Michael Healy, Stop the Casino 101 Coalition fine tuning legal challenge against the Department of the Interior

 

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.

Click here to read the environmental impact statement on the casino. 

What do you think of the complaint against the Department of the Interior? Are you concerned about the casino's impacts on Sonoma County?

Conflict of interest? September 18, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I'm curious, has Patch done any research to determine whether Healy is paid as an attorney by the Stop 101 Casino organization? It would seem there may be a conflict of interest if he has a financial interest in representing that organization while he is using his status as council member to apply pressure in Sacramento and makes city resolutions against the casino.
Karina Ioffee September 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
According to Stop the 101 Casino Coalition, Mr. Healy is being paid to represent this group. Petaluma Patch asked the city attorney about Healy pushing for resolutions while being counsel to the group and were told by Eric Danly there was no conflict. The reasoning is that because the resolution (urging North Bay legislators to vote against the signing of the compact) Healy spearheaded was passed BEFORE he was officially the group's attorney. Efforts to get other legal experts to chime in on this were unsuccessful as none wanted to comment on an issue without having all of the details, but we'd be curious to hear reader thoughts on this, especially from readers who are also attorneys.
Active Thinker September 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Just say no to the casino. It will bring long term problems as they all do. Drugs, crime, and gambling are just a few of the major problems casinos bring to the world. Enough is enough. Glad he is fighting it.
Conflict of interest? September 18, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Interesting, but it would seem if he spearheaded something on the council that then resulted in a direct personal gain (being hired by Stop the 101 Casino), that seems fishy. As well, his actual motives are in question if it's not simply for the betterment of the community but rather the betterment of his pocket book. It also begs the question as to what else he may have advocated for as a council member that he then financially benefitted from. Too bad he can't be hired as an attorney by an organization devoted to pot hole repair...perhaps then we'd actually get our roads fixed.
Stop Graton Casino October 01, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Yup! Be glad he's opposed to casino expansion, because the Graton casino approval has opened the door for a big casino south of Petaluma.
DC Murphy October 26, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Active Thinker...sounds like a Mental Midget to me. Latest poles show that almost 90% of the people WANT and APPROVE of the Casino. The Native American people will not be shut down. So forget-about-it...And this loose cannon, HEALY, well, when the smoke clears he'll be looking for work at the Casino (lol) like thousands of other locals....but that's just my way of thinking! Remember these malcontented politicans with conflicts of interest come election time. They are susposed to represent the people and should NOT use their platforms for personal attacks on matters they don't happen to agree with. So get off the Band Wagon and leave the Indians alone. And to the Graton Indians---Welcome! Hope to see ya in Chicken Town, SOON!
DC Murphy October 26, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Karina Ioffee...who cares what Eric Danly thinks. I'd like to know what the California State Bar Association thinks! This loose cannon, Mike Healy needs to be investigated.

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