County to appeal its ouster from Wappo suit

2012-10-16T17:29:00Z 2012-11-15T20:00:47Z County to appeal its ouster from Wappo suitPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
October 16, 2012 5:29 pm  • 

Last month, a judge kicked Napa County out of a local Indian tribe’s lawsuit that seeks federal recognition, but the county isn’t accepting its place on the sidelines.

The county announced Tuesday that it will file an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila’s ruling, which removed the county from the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley’s lawsuit.

The appeal will be filed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the county has until Oct. 28 to do that.

Davila ruled that Napa and Sonoma counties didn’t have enough of an interest in the lawsuit to remain involved, saying the counties’ fear that the tribe will pursue a casino if it gets recognition was too speculative to justify them staying in the case.

“We think Judge Davila’s ruling was wrong,” Supervisor Keith Caldwell said in a statement Tuesday. “Napa County has significant, protectable economic interests at stake in the Wappo suit, because the relief sought by the plaintiff could impact our Agricultural Preserve, our comprehensive land-use regulations and our quality of life here.”

The Wappo tribe sued the U.S. government in 2009, alleging that its federal recognition was illegally stripped from it in the 1950s. The tribe’s lawsuit seeks to have that recognition restored.

With the counties out of the case, the tribe has said it will file a motion for summary judgment. If successful, that motion would allow Davila to end the case and grant the tribe recognition.

That motion has yet to be filed, although Davila has set a case-management conference between the tribe and the federal government for Nov. 30.

The counties, which joined the suit in 2010, fear that recognition will allow the tribe to petition the government to take land into trust. That would exempt that land from local land-use and zoning laws and allow the tribe to pursue building a casino if it decided to. Tribal Chairman Scott Gabaldon has said repeatedly that his tribe has not decided whether it will pursue a casino.

The tribe’s lawsuit does seek land, but it specifies that it only seeks land that’s managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior and is available for transfer.

Davila ruled that the counties’ contending that recognition would lead to a casino was too tenuous to keep them in the lawsuit.

The possibility of a casino, he ruled, had no place in the tribe’s lawsuit seeking federal recognition.

“There is no direct, immediate or harmful effect on county land by simply placing federal land into trust as the Tribe requests,” Davila wrote. “The harm articulated by the Counties could only result if a casino was actually developed, an issue which is not encompassed by this case.”

With Napa County now out of the case, it will also ask the appellate court to review Davila’s ruling on the counties’ motion last year to dismiss the lawsuit. Davila denied that motion last October.

The county had tried to appeal that ruling earlier this year, but Davila rejected it, saying the appeal would have to wait until the case reaches its conclusion.

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(4) Comments

  1. bluecollardoctor
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    bluecollardoctor - October 16, 2012 7:39 pm
    Today at happy hour, I overheard some tourists wondering if there was a casino nearby. What a wonderful way to spend some time between finishing up at the tasting rooms and an 8pm dinner reservation. Copia Casino!!!
  2. hubble
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    hubble - October 17, 2012 10:56 am
    All so-called Indian casinos should be forcibly sold off as surplus property. It NEVER was legal to establish them, regardless of the strained logic used by the Feds and the states to legalize & establish them. The idea that these 'tribes' are sovereign nations within the United States always was--and remains--absurd. This was made possible by idiot judges and money-grubbing bureaucrats who saw a sleazy way to make a buck by undermining the sovereignty of the United States.

    Get rid of 'em--all of 'em. And get rid of absurd lawsuits like this one.
  3. iloverain
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    iloverain - October 19, 2012 8:45 pm
    ALL U.S. land is "Indian" land. ALL people not of Native American ancestry should move back to their country of origin. Do what's right people!! Why is everyone upset about China pretending to own Tibet while "U.S. citizens" claim to "own" this land when they rightfully do not?!!! Its time to right at least ONE of the wrongs done to the Native Peoples of this land. Diane Dillon is the puppet mouthpiece for all the business folks lining her pockets. They only care about THEMSELVES. Why is it that people with the virtue of integrity rarely get elected???
  4. Lucy White
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    Lucy White - October 20, 2012 12:08 am
    This is about Federal Tribal Recognition. Napa Valley is barely worthy of the Wappo legacy, yet these small minded local officials are trying to acclaim great powers above the constitution. It is so disgraceful. Beyond that, the misrepresentation of the local gs that we are only “ag preserve” is a joke – 4% of Napa County is urban – 9% is agricultural with 3% more potential – that leaves 84% of this county rural, grazing lands, and other - there is more than enough room here for the Mishewal Wappo Tribe. Then we have the local gs and their alliance to their clubs which want to put 60,000 acres of valuable lands and resources into Congressman Thompson’s Conservation Area, which will destroy communities and private property, locking up lands, resources and access. It is time to recall NC BOS who are not supporting responsible land use and development. Dillon+ = completely off course in fighting the Wappo Recognition.
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