State Senator Russell Pearce's Lawsuit to Derail West Valley Casino Tossed By Courts

Russell Pearce
U.S. District Court Judge David G. Campbell has denied an attempt by Senator Russell Pearce to join a lawsuit filed by  Glendale and the Gila River Indian Community against the Department of the Interior.

Glendale and the Gila are suing the Interior Department because it approved in July an application by the Tohono O'odham Nation to place 54 acres near 95th and Northern avenues into trust. (Placing land into trust means that it becomes an Indian reservation.)

Since the Nation announced its plans to build a resort-style casino on that West Valley parcel, state and local leaders have been tripping over themselves to derail it.

Pearce wanted a piece of the action and filed his own lawsuit, complete with all the reasons why the courts should allow Pearce, a Mesa resident, to join the fray.

The federal judge decided that Pearce didn't have a real stake in the case.

According to court records, Pearce argued he would be adversely affected by "higher taxes or lower service levels" if the feds' decision to accept the Tohono O'odham's land into trust is allowed to stand.

"He has made no showing of the extent of this alleged injury," Campbell wrote in his decision. "It seems unlikely that a resident of Mesa will experience higher taxes or lower services
because 54 acres of land within the boundaries of Glendale become reservation land."

The court documents also stated that Pearce does not speak for the State of Arizona or the
Arizona Legislature as a whole, and that the existing parties can fully litigate the lawsuit against the federal government.

It wasn't a total loss for Pearce. The courts threw him a bone and gave him until November 16 to file an amicus brief (basically information for the court to consider) regarding how the feds' decision might affect gaming in Arizona -- an issue that neither Glendale nor the Gila River Indian Community raised in their lawsuits.

Just this morning, a group of lawmakers called a press conference to say that they, too, had filed lawsuits against the feds for the same reasons that Pearce had.

Not surprising considering that it gave them an opportunity, just a few days before the election, to turn a fight over whether a casino should be built in the West Valley into a platform for Republican lawmakers to flex their anti-federal-government muscles.

Here's an interesting tidbit...

Pearce and his faithful followers bashed President Obama (surprise, surprise!) and claimed that the Tohono O'odham donated more than $360,000 in 2008 to political candidates around the country in support of the Obama adminstration's policies.

A Nation rep says that figure is grossly exaggerated and that it contributes to candidates from both political parties.

And guess who is among those political candidates who received that yucky-money from the Obama-loving Tohono O'odham Nation?

Yep ... Russell Pearce.

In fact, other lawmakers going after the Nation also received the max donations -- including state Representative Kirk Adams and state Senator John Nelson.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo