Gov. Kevin Stitt ‘Lawyers Up’ in Casino Gambling Dispute
Seattle-based Perkins Coie, which recently worked on a similar issue in New Mexico, will advise the governor’s office in its escalating gambling dispute with most of the state’s tribal casinos.
The agreement covers up to $300,000 in legal fees, and Perkins Coie may charge up to $750 per hour. The current dispute between thirty-five tribes and the state dates back to December 2019, when Governor Stitt announced that the current 15-year compact would expire on January 1, 2020. Under the terms of that compact, the agreement automatically renews unless either party requested renegotiation. The state tried to renegotiate the terms, and the tribes refused to accept the state’s offer. So, as far as they are concerned, the agreement is still in effect. Nevertheless, Governor Stitt insisted that “All Class III gaming activity [became] illegal on January 1st of 2020.”
The dispute is currently in federal court.
“Even seemingly straightforward ‘boilerplate’ contract provisions can be vague,” remarked Oklahoma civil litigation attorney George H. Brown. “So, do-it-yourself contracts might save a few pennies on the front end, but they usually cost a lot more on the back end.” Real estate contracts are a good example, he added. The commitments and dollar amounts are substantial in both rental and sales agreements. Yet, very few parties work with attorneys. At best, they work with non-lawyer real estate brokers. As a result, confusing terms often find their way into these contracts. Real estate contracts often suffer from another flaw, viz, there is no meeting of the minds on key provisions. The parties usually exchange multiple electronically-transmitted drafts. Generally, the principles are not even in the same room when they consummate the deal.
The four-corners rule makes contract provisions even more important.
Generally, external (parole) evidence is inadmissible in contract dispute matters. The only thing that matters are the words between the “four corners” of the written document. Breach of contract matters have an additional dimension. Generally, parties have a duty to mitigate their losses. For example, if ABC Company defaults on a commercial lease, the landlord has a duty to rent the space to another tenant. The landlord cannot simply file suit against ABC for the entire amount.
In most breach of contract and contract interpretation claims, parties must establish their case by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Oklahoma law. Therefore, it’s important for an attorney to scrutinize the contract and look for any possible evidentiary advantage. It’s also important for an attorney to be intimately familiar with ever-changing contract law.
Contact Brown and Gould law to discuss your case.