Tribe reverses course on eminent domain

After Jin's attorneys file motion, Hualapais reinstate law they used to seize Skywalk

The nine-member Hualapai Tribal Council reversed course and reinstated its eminent domain ordinance Thursday, hours after attorneys for Skywalk developer David Jin filed a motion for an emergency hearing.

The council had voted 5 to 3 to repeal the ordinance on March 3. The ordinance defines the council's power to take private property in return for compensating the owner of the property.

It reinstated the ordinance by a 5 to 0 vote, with two abstentions and two members excused from the meeting.

The ordinance was used to take control of the management contract governing the Skywalk from its developer David Jin in February. The Skywalk is a glass horseshoe-shaped bridge that juts out from the rim of the Grand Canyon on the tribe's land.

The two sides have been fighting over who is responsible for finishing the attraction's visitor center and how the profits from it are to be split since spring of last year.

The council also voted 5 to 1 in favor of banning Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, Jin's company, from tribal lands. One member abstained.

Jin filed a complaint in federal court last month to stop the takeover, claiming that some members of the council and the tribal courts have acted in bad faith and conspired to take the contract from him.

Some of the tribal judges are related to some of the council members and have recused themselves from taking the case. However, they are refusing to overturn the temporary restraining orders they granted the council against Jin.

The federal judge has yet to rule on the matter.

According to court documents, Jin's attorneys filed a motion for an emergency hearing in the federal court Thursday morning after learning the council had repealed the ordinance and allegedly made it retroactive.

In their motion, Jin's attorneys argued that Grand Canyon Skywalk Development now has no recourse in tribal courts because some council members claim that the eminent domain taking of the contract is complete.

Previously, the council's attorneys argued that the taking of the contract would not be completed until a tribal judged determined how much Jin should be compensated for the takeover.

In their response filed Friday morning, the council's attorneys said Jin's request for an emergency hearing was now moot because the council had reinstated the ordinance in order to ensure Jin was able to have his say in tribal court. They also reiterated their claim that Jin needs to argue his case in tribal court before it can be heard in the federal courts.

Council officials have previously said that the repeal of the ordinance would not have changed the council's authority to take over the Skywalk contract, because Council's eminent domain power is enshrined in the tribe's constitution.