|AG’s Poarch Creek lawsuit is a sham|
|Written by News Desk|
|Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:32|
By Bob Martin - Publisher
Here is what Attorney General Luther Strange wrote to the lawyers for VictoryLand and Milton McGregor before Strange raided and closed the Macon County facility last month:
"You are likely aware of the situation with regard to Class 2 gambling on Indian land. Federal law governs those facilities and I do not have jurisdiction to enforce federal or state laws against them."
This correspondence was written to McGregor's attorney Joe Espy after Espy asked Strange to file a declaratory judgment action against VictoryLand so the matter could be settled once and for all in court, and not force VictoryLand to close until a court ruled the bingo machines there were illegal.
Several questions arise from Strange's actions. If Strange now deems the Poarch Creek machines illegal how has he suddenly gained jurisdiction over the Indian casino equipment? And why didn't Strange seize the Poarch Creek machines when he filed suit against them? The answer seems obvious. The Poarch Casinos, as I reported two months ago, made a $100,000 campaign donation to Strange in 2010 and the suit is a sham, obviously filed in an attempt to dupe the public.
And since none of the machines at VictoryLand had ever been declared illegal by a court why wouldn't VictoryLand have the same opportunity to remain open until a ruling declaring the machines there illegal. It is the government's responsibility to prove a business is operating illegally.
Instead Strange filed in Elmore County courts for the Poarch casinos the same declaratory judgment action Espy asked him to with regard to VictoryLand, and left the Poarch Creek casinos in operation. Fairness, I believe, would dictate that VictoryLand get the same opportunity to remain open and prove its case just as the Poarch Creeks have. The action filed at VictoryLand was a civil forfeiture action against the money and machines and both were seized by Strange.
"I've just never seen anything like this," said Nelson Rose, author of the Gambling and the Law and an expert witness who has testified on behalf of pro-gambling interests before. "It's a public embarrassment for a state official to be doing this. I mean, he doesn't have any lawyers who know anything about federal law, gaming law, Indian law or any combination there of," Rose told The Birmingham News.
G. William Rice, a professor with Tulsa University's Native American Law Center, told the News that, generally speaking, states have no authority to intervene on Indian lands. "States simply have no jurisdiction over Indian Country," he said. "I'm afraid that the attorney general's lawsuit is on very tenuous grounds."
Echoing the opinions of Rice and Rose, Espy told me this week that Strange's lawsuit against the Poarch Band "is a smokescreen and a waste of taxpayer money. As he knows, the Alabama Attorney General has no jurisdiction over Native American gaming."
The Elmore County lawsuit isn't the only lawsuit Strange has filed. He has also filed a brief asking the Alabama Supreme Court to apply in Alabama a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that limits the federal government's ability to hold certain core Indian lands in trust, and therefore under federal jurisdiction.
If successful, the move could place some Poarch lands acquired after a certain date under state authority and jeopardize the band's legal standing to have casinos on land that was not in their initial grant, but acquired later.
The Poarch Band and other tribes are engaged in an intense lobbying effort to persuade Congress to overturn the results of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2009 that saw the court side with a number of states, including Alabama, which had sued to block Indian gaming entities from buying up and transferring land into tax-exempt federal trusts.
Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville told the News that in Escambia County, home of the Poarch owned Wind Creek Casino, the tribe has about 200 acres in trust but that their total land holdings in the county exceed 10,000 acres, much of it along Interstate-65 and holding an extraordinary potential for money-making developments.
Congress is currently debating legislation, advocated by tribal groups, that would overturn the court ruling, said Taylor.
Taylor says the act authorizing the federal government to carve out unlimited amounts of tax-exempt land would deprive funds to schools, hospitals, and state and local governments and hurt businesses in Alabama that could not compete against tax-exempt tribal enterprises.
I agree, but wonder how much this Strange action will cost the Poarch Tribe.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:43|
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