Friday February 27, 2015
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I have no idea who is right in the dispute between the developer who built the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a popular glass bridge that extends from the canyon's edge on tribal land in western Arizona, or the tribe that signed the contract for the bridge with him.
Right now the developer, who invested $30 million to build the horseshoe-shaped bridge that gives visitors a view of the Colorado River 4,000 feet below, has had his contract severed by the tribe in a dispute.
The developer claims that the tribal court has acted in bad faith and he wants a change of venue to federal court. He claims that he is owed for years of unpaid management fees, but the tribal court has yet to rule on that claim or the tribe's claims that he failed to complete a visitor center.
When the developer went to arbitration in accordance with the contract that was signed, and was awarded $28 million in the arbiter's decision, the tribe refused to pay. Since then a tribal court has refused to accept arbitration of the claims, saying that tribal defendants are protected from lawsuits by sovereign immunity. But neither has the tribal court settled either of two issues in the dispute.
Today, the developer's attorneys will argue before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the Hualapai tribal court system hasn't given him a fair shot and that he shouldn't have to fight his legal battles there. He will argue that he will be satisfied to have his claim seen by a federal court regardless of the outcome, but that the issue should be settled one way or another, not just set aside on a claim that a tribe cannot be sued
What do you think will happen? Better still, what do you think should happen?
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