MADERA — A Madera County Superior Court judge could rule later this year on whether Gov. Jerry Brown overstepped his authority in approving the North Fork Mono Rancheria's plans for a new Indian casino and resort north of Madera.
In a hearing last week, Judge Michael Jurkovich narrowed the issues he would target in making a decision in the case, which was filed earlier this year by Stand Up For California and Barbara Leach, who is a Madera-area resident.
The lawsuit claims that the governor overreached by agreeing to move the 305-acre property from state jurisdiction and into a federal trust for the tribe.
The governor agreed with the federal government to let the tribe obtain off-reservation land for the casino project, known as "concurrence." In the United States, this process has occurred only a handful of times, said I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor who specializes in gaming issues. Other tribes that use their own reservation property for gaming don't require concurrence because they don't need new land to build a casino, he said.
The governor's concurrence made the site eligible for gaming by placing it in a federal Indian trust. The governor agreed with the U.S. Department of the Interior's determination that the North Fork tribe has a "historical connection with the land" near Madera.
But Brown is not authorized to "concur" under California law, said Sean Sherlock, a lawyer for Stand Up For California, because there is no provision for it in the state constitution or state policy.
The Madera site is 36 miles from the tribe's North Fork home. Station Casinos, a major Las Vegas developer, is poised to build the Madera casino, with 50 gaming tables and 2,000 slot machines, at a cost of more than $200 million.
Brown's lawyer, Timothy Muscat, said the governor was following the rules of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which requires him to negotiate the compact and sign a concurrence before sending it to legislators.