Casino Opponents Prepare to Challenge Department of Interior in Court

Stop the Casino 101 Coalition will file a complaint against the Department of the Interior for how it took the Indian land into trust.


Opponents of the casino planned by The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria near Rohnert Park are fine tuning a legal challenge to be filed against the Department of Interior.

Station Casinos wants to develop the casino-resort on Wildfred Avenue, just west of the city. The idea has been a source of contention in Sonoma County for more than nine years.

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.

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 Rohnert Park and the surrounding area?

robert aherne September 14, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Ask yourself, "Why would touchy feely governor Jerry Brown approve such an obvious environmental monstrosity when he didn't have to." The Tribe and Stations Casino will not pay any State or local taxes. What does he gain by screwing we who live here? Money to his political funds? This is what you get when you elect a one party state. There is zero accountability. Robert Aherne
LP September 14, 2012 at 03:50 AM
What I find interesting is that Greg Sarris is seldom commenting on anything. As the leader of a group you think he'd do more to promote his interests. Instead he's like a politician, he waits to give a breif update and then you don't hear again from him for awhile. I'm sorry, there's just something about him that doesn't seem trustworthy (maybe it was that whole I won't build a casino thing he said when getting tribal status).
June September 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM
LOL do you really think that the traffic is going to be that bad that you all have to freak out over something that is going to happen! Like it or not change in this world happens, either adapt or go live in a secluded area in the mountains or on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Thats what happens when you live in the Bay Area DUH!! Buildings go up, people get jobs, communities get paid, its called progress
Big Ole Ndn September 14, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Are these "101" group people on crack? "ceded land" back to the Feds by the State? Before California Indian Land was "ceded" to the Feds by way of illegal treaties, the land was still Indian. So in essence, shouldn't the California Indians get all there land back by using this logic?
Dan Fleming September 17, 2012 at 04:23 PM
LP, are you kidding me? The PressDemocrat has only writen negative articles about Greg Sarris and the tribe. Why would he talk to "ANY" Press?


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