California Tribe Sanctioned in Casino Construction Lawsuit

A California judge has fined the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians in Mendocino County $207,000 for failing to comply with court orders in its dispute with a construction contractor over a casino project.

An aerial view of the Coyote Valley Casino, above. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians tribe was recently handed a $207,000 fine over a construction disrupt during the casino’s renovation. (Image: Coyote Valley Casino)

California Superior Court Judge Ann C. Moorman levied the fine because the tribe ignored previous orders to produce documents and go to arbitration with its former contractor, Robert Findleton, according to a report on

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians in Mendocino County casino is located in Northern California’s Redwood Valley. The location includes 400 slot machines and table games, a poker room and hotel. The tribe also owns a convenience store and “gas-ino” across the street.

The original casino was constructed in 1994. In 2007, renovation began to turn the original casino into a new, class III establishment.

Renovations Take a Turn

During the beginning of the renovations, one of Findelton’s companies was hired to fix roads to prepare for the new casino.

However, casino construction was suspended in 2008 due to financial problems related to the Great Recession. The Coyote Valley Casino, which replaced the casino the tribe originally opened in 1994, was since built and opened in 2017.

Findleton then sued the tribe for nonpayment in 2012 to collect on the two completed contracts plus compound interest.

“The day has come to use daily sanctions to enforce the order to compel,” Judge Moorman wrote in her decision. “For these reasons, the court invokes its inherent authority to manage discovery and enforce prior court orders by ordering defendant to pay plaintiff monetary sanctions in the amount of $207,000.”

Findleton also sought a motion for a court-ordered default judgment against the tribe and $3.37 million in damages, neither of which Judge Moorman granted.

A Matter of Jurisdiction

The tribe’s stance is that the matter belongs in tribal court. In January, it sued Judge Moorman in a California federal court, alleging that she ignored tribal court orders to this effect.

In March, the judge urged the federal court to toss that lawsuit, claiming that federal court lacks jurisdiction over the dispute under several U.S. Supreme Court doctrines, the Eleventh Amendment and the Anti-Injunction Act.

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