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Published: Monday, 10/17/2005

Petro asks court to toss Shawnee Ohio land suit

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro asked a federal judge on Friday to dismiss an Oklahoma-based tribe's claim to thousands of acres in northwest and west-central Ohio.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Mr. Petro argued that the 11th Amendment bars the filing of such lawsuits against states because they enjoy sovereign immunity. He also said Ohio was not a party to the Indian treaties cited by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and noted that the tribe's legal claims are more than 150 years old.

In a statement, the attorney general called the tribe's claim "another attempt to bring Class III casino gambling into Ohio," and added, "We do not believe the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma [is] entitled to any land in Ohio, whether state-owned or not."

Terry Casey, a tribe spokesman, said the Eastern Shawnee tribe remains confident its claim will be upheld.

"The tribe's not folding its cards," he said. "Basically, the tribe would not have filed if it felt it didn't have substantial legal facts and evidence to support its claim."

The tribe's suit against the state, filed last summer, claims ownership of 93,000 acres in the Lima, Wapakoneta, and Bellfontaine areas as well as hunting, fishing, and gathering rights for about 11,315 square miles that make up most of the southern half of Ohio.

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