Guidiville Band and gaming partner ordered to pay $1.9M in fees

An aerial view of Point Molate in Richmond, California. Photo from The Center for Land Use Interpretation

The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and a developer must pay $1.9 million in legal fees for their failed casino project, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

The tribe and partner Upstream Point Molate want to build a $1.2 billion casino at Point Molate in Richmond. The city, however, pulled out of the project despite previously agreeing to support it.

The tribe and Upstream responded with a lawsuit in federal court that accused the city of breaking a so-called Land Disposition Agreement. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed nearly all of the claims in a ruling that's being appealed.

But since the city prevailed, Rogers ordered the tribe and Upstream to pay legal fees. Both were held liable despite the tribe's attempt to assert sovereign immunity.

"The court agrees with the city and finds that the tribe, by asserting a claim for attorneys’ fees under the LDA against the city as part of their claim for breach of contract, expressly consented to this court’s jurisdiction to decide the issue of attorneys’ fees against the tribe as well," Rogers wrote in the 16-page decision.

In addition to suing the city, the tribe and Upstream are suing the federal government after the Obama administration shot down the project in September 2011. The Bureau of Indian Affairs determined the Point Molate site doesn't qualify for a casino under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

At issue is whether the Guidiville Band qualifies for exception in Section 20 of IGRA that applies to tribes that were restored to federal recognition. The Guidiville Band regained recognition in 1992 but the BIA said the tribe failed to show a historical and modern connection to Point Molate. The site is about 108 miles from tribal headquarters.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Guidiville Rancheria v. US. An opening brief also has been filed with the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
Tribe Owes California City $2 Million in Legal Fees (Courthouse News Service 8/30)

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