Court allows lawsuit against gaming officials of Pechanga Band

A view of the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. Photo from Flickr

Regulators for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians can be sued for revoking the gaming license of a former employee, a California appeals court ruled on Thursday.

Benedict Cosentino lost his job at the Pechanga Resort & Casino because he lacked a license. He sued the individual members of the tribal gaming commission but a judge said they were protected by sovereign immunity.

The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed. In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel said the commissioners acted beyond the scope of their authority because they never told Consentino why he lost his license.

"Although the parties do not dispute that as members of the tribe’s gaming commission defendants had the authority to revoke a gaming license if they received reliable information the licensee no longer satisfied the requirements for obtaining a license or had engaged in conduct that reflected poorly upon the tribe or its gaming activities, the record lacks evidence showing defendants received any such information about Cosentino or explaining why they revoked his gaming license," Judge Richard M. Aronson wrote for the court.

At the time he lost his job, Cosentino was providing information about alleged illegal activity at the casino to the California Department of Justice. The gaming commission tried to find out what he told the state before revoking his license.

Cosentino is also suing the tribe and the gaming commission in federal court. A judge dismissed due to sovereign immunity but he has taken the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from that case, Cosentino v. Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.

4th District Court of Appeal Decision:
Cosentino v. Fuller (May 28, 2015)

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