Ohio wants to rejoin tribe's lawsuit over land for casino

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tom Breckenridge

Plain Dealer Reporter

One week after hailing the state's dismissal from an Eastern Shawnee lawsuit, Ohio's top attorney is fighting to get back in.

Attorney General Jim Petro says the Oklahoma tribe's subsequent filing of proposed settlements in the case is a "sham" maneuver in its quest to land a casino.

The state filed a motion on Friday to intervene in the year-old federal lawsuit. The tribe sought thousands of acres that it claimed were taken illegally, under faulty treaties and land deals.

The tribe last week dismissed Ohio and all other defendants, except the city of Lima, where it's negotiating a proposed casino resort.

            With the dismissals, the tribe also filed proposed settlements with U.S. Judge James Carr in Toledo. The pacts would allow the Eastern Shawnee to take options on land at four sites, including Canal Fulton in Stark County.

            Ohio objects to language in the settlements that would recognize the tribe's historic links to the state's land.

            The state fears such deals could be viewed as "settlements of a land claim," a standard the tribe must meet in asking the federal government to take the land into trust - the first of many hurdles the Eastern Shawnee tribe faces before it could open a casino in Ohio.

            In its filing Friday, the state argued that the Eastern Shawnee lawsuit was a "pretense" to achieve a settlement that has no merit. The tribe has yet to show it has legal ties to any land in Ohio, the state said.

            Tribe lawyer Mason Morisset said Friday that he had not seen the state's motion to intervene. "We dismissed them," Morisset said. "I don't know why we would want them back."

            To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: