New Law Firm Will Help Sault Tribe Seek Relief for $88.8M Fine

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians from Michigan decided to once again try to get relief from paying a fine that had been issued. The tribe hired a new law firm whose role will be to be the company’s legal counsel during the process. 

The company may even appeal to the recent decision of the circuit court and try to change it.

Fine because of failed projects:

Sault Tribe has been fined about $89 million as a result of two casino projects that, unfortunately, failed

Two weeks ago, Joyce Draganchuk, an Ingham County Circuit Judge, issued a fine of $88.88M that the company has to pay. The fine has been issued because of the breach of contract and forged misrepresentation damages regarding the project development of Lansing and New Boston casino proposals

The interested parties, such as investors and developers who wanted to be included in the project, loaned $8.8 million to the gaming authorities. As the tribe claimed, the building of temporary and permanent casinos at both properties would be financed by putting the off-reservation land into trust.

However, in the end, it turned out that the tribe hadn’t submitted the additional documents that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs required in order to put the off-reservation land into trust. 

The Bureau stated that the application didn’t have adequate evidence that would allow them to place the land into trust. However, the application remained open. Draganchuck explained that it is open “so the Tribe could present additional evidence that the acquisitions would enhance tribal lands. That did not happen.”

Will changing the legal counsel change the verdict:

Austin Lowes, Sault Tribe Chairman, said: “The Sault Tribe is deeply concerned with what it has discovered in reading the Court’s opinion. Our board has met with our legal counsel and is hopeful a new direction will lead to a better outcome.”

The tribe didn’t want to continue the collaboration with the legal counsel Patterson Law Firm, and Grewal Law PLLC will take over their position. 

The first step for the tribe is to seek relief from the Judge. If this proves unsuccessful, the tribe will appeal to the state Court of Appeals.

The fine consists of $11.4 million in principal and interest on the initial loan, but the most significant amount is $75 million, which is related to lost revenue. The revenue was calculated from the casinos that never launched. 

The casino proposals are more than a decade old, and the development partners finally decided to file suit against the gaming authority. Everything began in March 2021, when the partners decided to retrieve the loans they gave. The attorneys hired by the tribe tried to get immunity in the case many times, but every appeal since then has been denied despite the efforts. 

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