Judge Joyce Draganchuck, an Ingham County Circuit Chief Judge, instructed the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to determine how it will pay an $89 million fine to two Michigan developers. She made the ruling on February 1 and banned the tribe from selling its gaming properties.
What Are the Tribe's Debts?
Judge Draganchuck stated that the Sault Tribe has to settle its $9 million loan debt, pay $28.8 million for an incomplete Lansing casino project to Lansing and New Boston (two local developers), and $60 million for an unfinished Huron Township casino near the Metro Airport.
She said that the Sault Tribe's gaming subsidiary, Kewadin Casinos Gaming Authority owes Lansing and New Boston companies $88.8 million. Also, the judge gave the tribe a two-week restraining order adding that it has lost its trust for violating court orders.
Former Judge James Jamo gave the Native tribe another restraining order in the past when Judge Draganchuck was absent. So, she didn't sign the TRL but fully supported it.
The Sault Tribe's Appeal
The tribe is challenging Judge Draganchuck's verdict due to a non-recourse provision which allows recovery if the casino makes profits. Its attorneys stated that it didn't earn profits when making a court filing.
Lansing Future and JLLJ Development LLC attorneys revealed that the two development companies decided to protect themselves from judgment thus benefiting the Sault Tribe. Judge Draganchuck termed their resolution as astonishing when commenting on it.
The Court's Decision
The judge gave the developers and Sault Tribe attorneys up to February 15, 2:30 p.m. to make a preliminary injunction which adheres to the companies' judgment and federal tribal regulations. She won't be present during the agreement but will later have another hearing to give her opinion.
Judge Draganchuck added the February 15th hearing won't take place if counsel agree on an injunction which will protect plaintiffs allowing them to make sound judgment and protect the Sault Tribe's functions.
Andrew Broder from Broder and Fossee, PC is among the lawyers who sued the Sault Tribe after its casino projects failed. He said that it's tricky to trust it without a restraining order. Yet, he knows the tribe's board of directors will meet on February 7 but they will have to retain their properties even if they decide to change the September 2022 resolution.
Other Legal Battles
The two developers and the Sault Tribe have had ongoing legal battles since 2021 and the recent restraining order is one of them. The companies accused the tribe of not refunding the money they lost. But, they want to recover profits and investments worth $124 million.
The tribe hasn't completed any casino project since 2018. The U.S. Department of the Interior turned down its land ownership request which it needs for off-reservation investments.
The Sault Tribe filed an appeal and former U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Jonker favored the Department of the Interior in his ruling. It appointed Barnett as its lawyer on January 13. Judge Draganchuk stated that she wasn't sure if Barrett and other lawyers advised the tribe to ignore court orders.