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Jun 28, 2019 1:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Urges State Supreme Court To Dismiss Lawsuit Over Billboards

Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal trustees are currently being sued in State Supreme Court over the Nation's billboards along Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jun 28, 2019 3:40 PM

Shinnecock Indian Nation leaders are moving forward with an attempt to dismiss a lawsuit in State Supreme Court targeting the Nation’s billboards along Sunrise Highway, so that the case can proceed in federal court.

The State Department of Transportation and the State of New York are suing the Nation’s seven Tribal Trustees and their contracted companies over allegations that they are violating state laws by constructing and operating billboards along a Sunrise Highway right-of-way without DOT work permits.

At a hearing on Thursday, June 27, in Riverhead court, the trustees’ attorney, Carson Cooper, asserted that the Nation and the individual Tribal Trustees are immune from any lawsuit in State Supreme Court, a stance that tribal leaders have repeated since the litigation began. He told Justice Sanford Neil Berland that the court does not have jurisdiction to proceed with the case.

Mr. Cooper argued that the court should order a twofold dismissal: to dismiss the case entirely, or to remove the individual Trustees as defendants and replace them with the Nation as one entity if the judge decides to continue proceedings in state court.

Plaintiffs sued the individual Trustees as a way to try to circumvent the Nation’s sovereign immunity. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs cited past cases to support the decision. One was a federal case, Gingras v. Think Finance Inc., which held this year that tribal sovereign immunity did not bar that lawsuit, because plaintiffs may sue individual tribal officials.

Mr. Cooper argued at the hearing that the Nation should replace the tribal leaders in the lawsuit, not because of any immunity stipulation but because the actions of the case directly affect the tribal community.

“This case is about the Nation and the Nation’s use of its land,” Mr. Cooper said to Justice Berland.

Shawn Wallach, the attorney for the billboard companies, what the court collectively called the “corporate defendants,” also argued at the hearing that the companies being sued—Digital Outdoor Advertising, LLC, Idon Media, LLC, and Outdoor, Inc./Idon Media—should all be replaced with Iconic Digital Displays, LLC, with whom the Nation solely contracted for the project.

In response, plaintiff attorneys Susan Connolly and Rosalinde Casalini presented a highly redacted copy of the contract agreement and said that the full agreement should be reviewed before determining whether to modify the defendants.

Justice Berland reserved his judgment and took the arguments under advisement, encouraging the parties to talk among themselves to try to reach a mutual agreement.

The temporary restraining order, which was supposed to end Thursday, will remain in effect while the case proceeds, the judge said.

Six days before the hearing, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on June 21 alleging that the Nation’s Westwoods property, where the billboards are being erected, is not sovereign land, because it is separate from the Shinnecock territory that is the reservation just outside Southampton Village.

The 96-acre Westwoods property is five miles to the west of the territory, across the Shinnecock Canal.

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By bigfresh (4498), north sea on Jun 29, 19 7:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
The state is a bunch of gangstas
By chief1 (2748), southampton on Jun 29, 19 10:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
By themarlinspike (441), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 29, 19 11:31 AM
Land stolen from State by sovereign nation...
By knitter (1813), Southampton on Jun 29, 19 1:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By lb (2), whb on Jun 29, 19 7:07 PM
The land wasn’t allocated to them, it was their land.
By Fred s (2899), Southampton on Jun 29, 19 7:12 PM
I don't believe anyone owns anything for life. The boundaries of Europe and the rest of the world have been change literally every 50 years. That being said the shinnick ox are more than a nation they are human beings and if a stupid Billboard helps them get 2 million dollars to help feed and take care of themselves so bit. The greedy state really has to stop doing this to not only shinnecocks but to its citizens
By chief1 (2748), southampton on Jun 29, 19 9:54 PM
Well the press has been pretty good at getting the story fairly correct but they blew this one. Sovereign immunity is sovereign immunity whether it's the tribal leadership or the nation itself they are both one and that's what our lawyers are saying to the judge and AG. The AG tried to skirt around this with there feeble attempt to just sue the leadership when they are both one in the same. . The press also got it wrong about trying to get it dismissed so we could go to Federal Court! With it dismissed ...more
By Lance A. Gumbs (1), Southampton on Jun 29, 19 10:21 PM
So now you're threatening neighbors who have owned property for decades? Nice. Way to get the community on your side.
By eagleeye (78), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 19 9:48 AM
3 members liked this comment
Fatuous cant about sovereign "rights", unsubstantiated by fact or law, coupled with the (empty but still nasty) threat to kick residents out of their homes.

It is this attitude that is wholly responsible for the estrangement of the tribe from "unexceptional" Southamptonites and which has perpetuated its impoverishment. Who in his right mind would choose to associate with people who repeatedly proclaim that they don't have to follow the rules (that he and everyone else observe) and that ...more
By highhatsize (4125), East Quogue on Jul 2, 19 9:00 AM
2 members liked this comment
Tribes Are Gathering
By themarlinspike (441), Northern Hemisphere on Jul 2, 19 9:16 AM
Pretty sure you have no idea what you are talking about. The residences to the east and west have been in place decades. And please, stop with the stolen, I'm sure not every inch of soil in Southampton was occupied by a Shinnecock. Your time and energy would be better spent trying to take back the golf course that was "stolen" from you......
By Bayman3142 (243), Southampton on Jul 4, 19 10:17 AM
Phony deeds have to be proven, not he said. The state did condemn the land for the Sunrise as it did other lands.
By knitter (1813), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 10:38 AM
Speaking of deeds, if I'm not mistaken here, isn't Native American land held in trust by the Federal government? Therefore now that the tribe is federally recognized, the suit would not be DOA in Federal court, but where it should reside as to set lawful precedent, similar to v. Mazurie when regulating commerce? So, would it not be up to a Federal judge to determine if the State of New York is correct in their assessment that the "monuments" pose a safety hazard or that they reside on state land? ...more
By Mr. Z (11494), North Sea on Jun 30, 19 11:20 AM
Mr. Z: "So, would it not be up to a Federal judge to determine if the State of New York is correct . . . "


Has the Shinnecock Nation amended its complaint in federal court, as earlier articles indicated that it intended to do?

Why has the tribe not done this?

This case is begging to be in federal court IMO.
By PBR (4940), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 5:23 PM
I would like to see an audit of just where tribal profits go. Res is in dire need and Gumbs is a millionaire, I'm told. Follow the money.
By Taz (680), East Quogue on Jun 30, 19 10:57 AM
It’s a sovereign nation, basically none of your business.
By Fred s (2899), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 10:59 AM
Is any normal company actually advertising on them? Thus far all I have seen is charities and random PSA's on them. They can't possibly be making any real money from that.
By rrrglynnn (22), Hampton Bays on Jun 30, 19 11:06 AM
10% tax on all businesses to the Nation would be the right thing to do...
By knitter (1813), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 2:48 PM
At the end of the updated article it says:

"Six days before the hearing, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on June 21 alleging that the Nation’s Westwoods property, where the billboards are being erected, is NOT SOVEREIGN LAND, because it is separate from the Shinnecock territory that is the reservation just outside Southampton Village."

Doesn't this change the conversation?

At the risk of being a broken record, this case belongs ...more
By PBR (4940), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 2:56 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Preliator Lives (423), Obamavillie on Jul 1, 19 6:54 AM
So now “billboard” is a racist term? I hope you were joking-in that case lmao. I’ve been to a lot of monuments and haven’t seen any with a lighted advertising screen. Looks like a billboard to me.
By CaptainSig (712), Dutch Harbor on Jul 1, 19 7:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
This one may have come up before, but if so I’ve forgotten it, apologies to all. As we get more and more cell phone users out here, especially in summer, the need for another cell tower becomes more and more acute. Location seems to have been the main obstacle. So maybe the Shinnecocks could permit a tower on their land, preferably on the reservation itself, to avoid challenges to the status of the Westwoods property. It would have to bring in more revenue than these failed billboards, and ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1955), Quiogue on Jul 1, 19 9:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think that proposal, while reasonable, would fail on two points, one technical, one economic. Technically, adding a cell tower on Westwoods might benefit boaters in Peconic Bay but would have little benefit to landbound places south and west, as the tower range isn't all that significant or would it cover that much area. Economically, the potential revenue generated by one tower would be dwarfed by the potential advertising revenue that could be generated by the monuments, with 4 ads showing simultaneously ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jul 1, 19 5:18 PM
It was only a matter of time. The trees which are NOT on Indian land block the motorists from seeing the billboards until you are almost on top of them. The Nation's solution to this is just cut the trees back. It doesn't matter where the trees are located. Luckily someone called the PoPo and ti looked like some people were invited to appear before the SH courts. Unfortunately they were able to hack back a good portion of a tree before they were stopped.

Here are some pics...

From ...more
By longtimelocal (56), Southampton on Jul 2, 19 3:13 PM
This may work to the State's benefit, now they can ticket commuters staring at a 60ft electronic advertisement for "distracted driving."
By FarOutEast (14), Southampton on Jul 8, 19 9:28 AM
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