April 11, 2009
SAN DIEGO - The Jamul Indian band has dropped a lawsuit pending in San Diego federal court that accused California officials of meddling with its casino plans. Neither side explained the circumstances behind the joint request to dismiss the case.
A spokesman for the Caltrans said he can not talk about the case until the judge agreed to dismiss it. Tribal officials were not available for comment.
However, a lawyer for a group of neighbors opposed to the casino said the Jamul Indian band agreed to submit its plans to a state environmental review.
"The key result here is that there is no federal court ruling advancing the tribe's interest," said Stephan Volker, lawyer for Jamulians Against the Casino. "Instead, their lawsuit has been dismissed, which, from my perspective, is a complete victory for the public and the environment."
The key issue in the case was whether state officials could review the casino plans.
"That's not their business," said Jamul tribal Chairman Kenneth Meza last December. "They just need to know who's going in and going out."
The lawsuit was positioned as a battle between tribal and state governments to decide what happens within their jurisdictions. The tribe argued that federal law and tribal sovereignty exempted its casino plans from state review. State officials threatened to block access to the casino if the tribe did not compensate for the impact of additional traffic. Jamul Indian Village lies on a curvy and hilly section of state Route 94, about 20 miles from downtown San Diego.
Tribal officials planned to use the reservation's existing driveway, but Caltrans wanted them to build a driveway across non-reservation land the tribe owns nearby.
The dismissal of the lawsuit was signed by both sides and may be a sign of a settlement, according to Kathryn Rand, an Indian gaming expert and a law professor at the University of North Dakota.
"Perhaps the state said that given a good outcome on the environmental impact statement, they would do something in return, they would reach some compromise on the access," Rand said.
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