Tribe Prepares For Court

June 13, 2005
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BRADLEY — The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan, commonly known as “the Gun Lake Tribe,” released a statement Friday saying it was deeply disappointed that Michigan Gambling Opposition (MichGO) intends to file a lawsuit today seeking to delay the federal government’s acquisition of land for the Tribe’s initial reservation near Bradley.

“Our tribe has worked for decades to regain land that was illegally taken from us. We have played by the rules, and the vast majority of our neighbors and local governments support this project,” said Gun Lake Chairman D.K. Sprague. “MichGO represents a small number of wealthy businessmen who are used to getting their way. Not this time. We will intervene in this case to vigorously defend our tribe’s interest.”

The tribe announced that its legal team is comprised of the tribe’s longtime legal counsel, Monteau & Peebles LLP, a national law firm specializing in federal Indian law, and two nationally-recognized law firms, Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal LLP, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP as special counsel.

On behalf of Monteau & Peebles, LLP, Conly J. Schulte will represent the tribe in this litigation. Schulte has been lead counsel in major litigation over Class II gaming, where he earned victories enabling tribes to utilize video Class II gaming devices as a means of economic development. Schulte also served as lead counsel in litigation against the city of Detroit over violations of constitutional rights involving bids for casino development contracts.

That litigation resulted in a settlement of over $94 million. On behalf of Sonnenschein, Nicholas Yost will represent the tribe. Yost has decades of experience in environmental law and served as the general counsel for the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality.

Yost also served as lead counsel in County of El Dorado vs. Norton, where the district court for the Eastern District of California upheld the validity of a Bureau of Indian Affairs environmental assessment.

Also, Yost served as co-counsel for litigation and lead counsel for the NEPA challenge to the United Auburn Indian Community in the case of the City of Roseville vs. Norton, in which the district court for the District of Columbia rejected a NEPA challenge and a variety of other claims.

The tribe is also working with Seth Waxman and Edward Dumont of Wilmer Cutler. Waxman has delivered more than 45 oral arguments in the United States Supreme Court and served as the Solicitor General of the United States. DuMont served as an assistant to the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The pair recently served as counsel to the United Auburn Indian Community in the case Roseville case.

The MichGO case concerns the Secretary of Interior’s May 13 decision to accept the former Ampro building into trust for the purpose of building a 193,500-square-foot casino.

If not for the lawsuit, the land could have been placed into trust as early as tomorrow.

“MichGO’s claim that this project is bad for West Michigan is misguided. It is this baseless lawsuit that is bad for West Michigan. Our tribe and the local community are desperate for good-paying jobs,” said Sprague. “This is evident by the fact that two events over the last three weeks brought over 7,000 people to the future casino site to learn about the jobs and economic development opportunities that will be available at the casino.”    

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