Just saw this in the local paper.. Not sure if you guys have seen this yet.
U.S. District Court upholds CRIT decision against Water Wheel.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
PARKER, Ariz. - The U.S. District Court late last week awarded a significant legal victory to the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) in its case against Robert Johnson and his Water Wheel Resort
Judges Gary LaRance, Jolene Marshall and David Campbell affirmed a ruling by the CRIT Tribal Court to evict Water Wheel and order the company to pay damages to CRIT for non-payment of rent.
The decision validates the Tribal Court's decision, allows the tribes to move forward with the eviction of Water Wheel, Inc., and allows the tribes to collect a multi-million dollar damage award. It also, again, upheld that CRIT has the full legal right to enforce leases and legal agreements on its lands in California.
"This is an important victory for CRIT and a ruling that upholds our tribal sovereignty," said Tribal Chairman Eldred Enas. "It shows that no one who enters into an agreement with CRIT is above the law and protects the integrity of the tribal court system. CRIT is committed to moving forward with this matter and similar lease enforcement issues on its western boundary."
The Court also ruled that the facts of the case did not support CRIT exercising personal jurisdiction over Johnson.
This case followed from a suit in Tribal Court by CRIT against Water Wheel, Inc., and Johnson for eviction and damages for past due and holdover rent. Water Wheel had a 32-year lease for 26 acres of riverfront land along the California side of the Colorado River that expired in July 2007.
Water Wheel and Johnson were supposed to surrender the property peaceably and without resorting to legal process upon expiration. They did not and the tribes filed suit.
The Tribal court found in favor of the tribes and assessed multi-million dollar damages and the Tribal Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.
Thereafter, Water Wheel and Johnson sought relief in U.S. District Court from the Tribal Court judgment, claiming that the Judge (Gary LaRance) had no power to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-member (non-Indian owned) corporation, or a non-member who acted only as an agent of the corporation.
The U.S. District Court's decision said that "The most compelling facts in support of a consensual relationship between Water Wheel and CRIT are Water Wheel's 32-year lease of tribal land and its three-year hold-over tenancy on that land.
A lease is one of the classic examples of a consensual relationship cited by the Supreme Court... Indeed, it is difficult to think of a more consensual relationship than a non-member's occupancy of tribal land under a formal written agreement with the tribe."
The court also wrote that "In an attempt to overcome the virtually dispositive fact of the lease, Plaintiffs argue that the property does not belong to CRIT, that the lease is not valid, and that the lease is with the United States, not CRIT... Plaintiffs quite inconsistently ...assert that they are not challenging the Indian title or reservation status of the land. A federal court judgment [has determined] that the property is owned by the United States 'in trust for the Colorado River Indian Tribes.'"
Tribal officials said that CRIT is pursuing damages and eviction of other tenants on the western boundary, who have not paid their rents or abided by the terms of their leases.
"The decision will boost CRIT's efforts on this front and CRIT will proceed with its cases against these lessors in the coming weeks and months," officials said.