D.C. Court Rules in Favor of Elk Grove Casino Bid, Opponents to Appeal

March 1, 2018 | 

In a ruling issued today, a Washington D.C. federal judge declined arguments from a plaintiff seeking to vacate a decision to place land in Elk Grove, California into federal trust for a proposed Indian Casino.

Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs did not place land for Wilton Rancheria's proposed $500 million casino in Elk Grove in violation of the Federal Vacancy Reform Act of 1998. The plaintiff in the case, casino watchdog group Stand Up For California (SUFC) filed the suit on behalf of three Elk Grove plaintiffs claiming that the decision to place in the land into federal trust in the waning hours of the Obama administration was in violation of the FVRA.

In a statement issued this morning, Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Raymond "Chuckie" Hitckcock hailed McFadden's ruling and implied the plaintiffs "and their high-priced law firms" were attempting to stifle competition. Hitchcock did not specify who was trying to stifle the tribe's efforts to open their gaming facility. 

“We are grateful to the United States government for defending and upholding their federal trust responsibility to our Tribe and for protecting our inherent right to have tribal trust lands, not only for now but for generations to come,” Hitchcock said.

Although the statement praised the ruling, it did not elaborate on a specific timetable on when construction of the controversial project might begin. The casino-resort is being financed by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming.

At a community information meeting held on Elk Grove in July 2016, Hitchcock said he did not expect construction on the project would begin for being five to seven years from that point. Members of the Elk Grove City Council have supported the efforts of the Wilton Rancheria saying the casino would be a catalyst needed to finish the unfinished shopping center which has sat dormant since construction came to a halt in July 2008.

The case hinged on whether if then-acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Lawrence Roberts was within his authority to place the land, which is directly adjacent to the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, into federal trust. Since the property was not on tribal land putting the 36-acre parcel into trust was necessary for the project to proceed.

McFadden ruled that "there are very few duties that cannot be delegated to an 'acting' officeholder, the second-in-command (the “first assistant” to use the FVRA’s term), or even another official who acts in the place of the principal pursuant to agency regulations or orders." 

Additionally, McFadden entered a notation in the ruling stating "The Plaintiffs proffer that its motion raises issues of law that will resolve those counts; accordingly, the parties have briefed cross-motions for summary judgment only as to Counts One and Two."

SUFC's executive director Cheryl Schmitt said an appeal would be filed and that there are several other remedies they will pursue. Schmitt snoted this litigation was the first procedural step they had to take and had the court ruled for them the project in its present form would have ended. 

"This is far from over," she added. 


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Hinto Mahpee said...

Its about time

Hinto Mahpee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy Bekker said...

Even though it seems Stand up for California has some legal tricks up their sleeve the court system has continued to see through their so called magic. If you read the decision it is pretty clear to understand how and why the judge ruled in favor of the Interior Department on behalf of Wilton Rancheria Tribe.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Great news! I'm going to send my two kids to card dealing school so they can start a career right here in the Grove!

My son originally wanted to get into high tech and I told him about this area becoming the next Silicon Valley, but he said he didn't want to wait. My daughter wanted to break into the lodging business, but I told her that card dealing is better because you get tips. I'm sure they'll be house hunting as soon as they can and enjoy the quality of life in The Grove.

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