an East Bay casino was delayed Friday at a federal court hearing.
Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed not
to designate a San Pablo cardroom
as tribal land until a federal judge clears the way.
Bay Area card clubs asked for an injunction to block the bureau, arguing
that the LyttonPomos
don't meet the criteria for recognition as a tribe and that the 10-acre
parcel in a San Pablo shopping district does not qualify as a reservation.
"They're not a tribe, and this ain't a reservation," said Bo Links, one
of several lawyers representing the card rooms. The case presents the last
significant obstacle the Lytton Pomos
must overcome before opening California's first Las Vegas-style
casino in an urban area. The tribe
also would be the first to establish a reservation outside its historical
range solely for commercial purposes.
the tribe would then be able to proceed with plans to create a 50-acre
residential reservation on the edge of Windsor. U.S. District Judge David F.
Levi, who is presiding over the case, began Friday's hearing by
posing a hypothetical question to lawyers for the LyttonPomos and
their co-defendants, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, who presides
over the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the city of San Pablo.
If the government can grant tribes a monopoly on gambling and permit them
to establish reservations wherever they want casinos, could it also give
them similar control over bank machines and allow the proliferation of
"Indian country wherever there's an ATM?" he asked. "Where does it end?"
a lawyer for the Lytton Pomos,
told the judge that the creation of reservations was the authority of Congress,
and that the courts were not at liberty to challenge those decisions. Three
years ago, legislation sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez,
gave the Lytton Pomos special authority to place the San Pablo land into
trust — a prerequisite for Indian
reservations and casinos under federal and state law. Lawyers for the four
card clubs focused their attention on the history of the Lytton Band of
Pomo Indians, which the federal government disbanded in the 1960s
and reinstated in 1991.
David Fried argued the Lytton Pomos are not a real tribe because they are
the descendents of two families
who fell short of official standards for tribal status. He said the original
members of the Lytton Rancheria,
which the government created outside Healdsburg
in 1934, didn't have the minimum 50 percent "blood quantum" — meaning that
they were not at least half Indian as required under law. Additionally,
Fried said the Lytton Pomos have yet to complete one of the prerequisites
for creating a reservation: organizing a government under a constitution.
Cohen countered with another interpretation of Lytton Pomo's
history. It is a group, he said, that "is not only landless, it has been
run out of the 100-square-mile
area they used to occupy." He disputed the facts about bloodlines and dismissed
as a technicality the claim that the tribe hasn't organized a government.
Judge Levi ended the hearing without saying
when he would make a ruling.
Lytton Pomos plan to use profits from the casino to build a reservation
on Windsor River Road. The tribe's casino partner, a Philadelphia investment
group led by stadium promoter Sam Katz,
bought the property last June for $2.2 million. Katz has promised to give
the oak-studded land to the Pomos once the San Pablo site — a cardroom
bought by the investment group for the tribe in 1998 — becomes eligible
for an Indian casino with slot machines. Tuesday's hearing was the second
of two lawsuits by the card clubs.'.
In the first, the card clubs argued that Proposit
1A, approved by voters in 2000, created an unfair advantage for Indians
ng them the exclusive right to
operate casinos in California. Levi dismissed that case last summer. You
can reach Staff Writer Sam Kennedy at 521-5312 or email@example.com.