Oklahoma tribes request court changes

BY NOLAN CLAY Published: January 20, 2010
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Two state tribes are asking a federal judge to permanently keep civil lawsuits over Indian casino operations out of state courts.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation made their request in a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Oklahoma.

The tribes contend their gaming compacts with Oklahoma do not allow state courts to have jurisdiction over casino-related lawsuits.

The two tribes told U.S. District Judge Lee West an arbitrator already has ruled in their favor. The arbitrator, a former Oklahoma federal judge, decided Indian casino-related lawsuits must be heard in tribal courts.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court in June ruled in two cases that lawsuits can be heard in state courts.

In one case, a casino patron said she fell in a flower bed at a Choctaw casino in Pocola in 2005 after a guard directed her and others to a particular entrance. She said she was treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries and the tribe did nothing when she filed a claim against it.

In the other case, a man said he was injured in 2005 in the Pocola casino parking lot when a casino shuttle-cart driver ran into him.

Ongoing Coverage: Tribes