Judge rejects tribal claim that Connecticut owes it $610M
Dec. 29, 2017
KENT, Conn. (AP) — A judge rejected a Native American tribe's claim that Connecticut owes it more than $600 million for land the tribe says the state seized a century or more ago.
In an 11-page decision released Wednesday, the judge dismissed the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation's claim that it owned the land.
"To sue the state for taking your property, first you have to have some property," Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher wrote.
The judge allowed other claims in the lawsuit, including the tribe's alleged ownership of certain mortgages, to continue.
The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation said in its lawsuit that the state seized 2,000 acres from a 2,400-acre reservation in western Connecticut between 1801 and 1918 without compensating the tribe. They wanted $610 million.
The tribe based its claims on two legislative resolutions from 1736 and 1752.
The 1736 resolution allowed the nation to "continue" on the land until the state legislature decided otherwise, while the 1752 act granted the nation the "liberty" to improve and cut wood on the land for as long as the state legislature allowed.
"Telling someone they can stay somewhere, fix it up, and cut wood for themselves on it until the owners says otherwise doesn't sound very much like the owner is giving that person the land," Moukawsher wrote. "This conclusion is even easier to reach under the legal rules governing land transfers that applied in the 18th century and before and still apply today."
Austin Tighe, a lawyer for the nation, said an appeal to the state Supreme Court is possible.
"We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling dismissing one-half of our constitutional takings claim, and we look forward to proceeding on our other six claims," Tighe said.
The state attorney general's office said it is reviewing the decision.