City Attorney Craig Tindall will be in San Francisco April 16 when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments involving the Tohono O'odham Nation's West Valley Resort case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced Feb. 7 it is expediting the oral argument of an appeal of the ruling by the U.S. District Court that the Secretary of the Interior is obligated by the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act to take the Tohono O'odham Nation's West Valley property into trust.
Tindall said Audrey Moog of the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Hogan Lovells would represent the city, while the state will be represented by Attorney General Tom Horne. Gila River Indian Community also has its own legal counsel, the firm of Akin Gump of Washington, D.C., while a group of Arizona state legislators will be represented by Rose Law Group, based in Phoenix. The U.S. Department of Interior will be represented by attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Tindall was asked what happens next if the Tohono O'odham Nation wins this round in court.
Tindall said, "We don't anticipate we will lose," adding that the city's case is "well grounded in law," and "legal remedies haven't been exhausted. We believe we have good arguments."
Tindall said others opposed to the resort/casino at 95th and Northern avenues - Gila River Indian Community and other tribes, as well as the governor and a group of state legislators - believe their arguments are also valid.
"There hasn't been a legal conclusion in this case," Tindall said.
For those individuals who are confused and wondering when this case will end, Tindall said he understands.
"It's a very complex matter," he said. "There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered that the Department of Interior is unwilling or unable to take up.
"If we're going to seek a legal, definitive answer, it takes time."
It also takes money, of which Tindall said he was aware. But, he said if someone has legal rights, they have to protect their interests, and the state, too.
The Tohono O'odham Nation does not agree with Tindall's assessment of the city's arguments.
Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said, "We appreciate the court's decision to fast track the appeal. The Nation is confident of another favorable ruling and looks forward to creating thousands of jobs and positive economic opportunity in the West Valley."
The appeal was filed after the District Court rejected the city's, state's, other tribes', and state legislators' attempts to block the Tohono O'odham Nation's efforts to have the West Valley property taken into trust and
added to the Nation's existing reservation lands in Maricopa County.
The District Court ruling for the Nation is one of eight straight rulings by the courts and federal agencies in favor of the Nation since it announced its plans in the spring 2009.
Tohono O'odham Nation is a federally-recognized, Indian tribe, with existing reservation lands in Maricopa County, Pinal County, and Pima County. The West Valley Resort would be located at 95th and Northern avenues and tribal officials say it will generate thousands of new jobs and more than $300 million in annual economic impact.