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U.S. GOVERNMENT SHOULD KEEP OUT OF SENECA SUIT

A recent editorial in The News supporting federal intervention on behalf of the Seneca Indians against the people of Grand Island was replete with errors, as was a subsequent"correction" published two days later.

First and foremost, the principal Seneca claim is not against any government.

From the very beginning of this lawsuit, as well as in amended complaints filed just last month, the Senecas have sought to "eject the defendants from their land," and to be paid money damages from every Grand Island resident, land owner and business "in an amount equal to the fair rental value of the island" from 1815 to date.

If the Senecas really want something other than what they're officially asking for, let them amend their lawsuit to reflect the fact that they're only seeking money damages from the United States and New York.

No one should be eager to waste federal or state tax dollars settling a baseless claim, but we would all breathe much easier if the demands for ejectment and money damages from the people of Grand Island were dropped.

The News further stated that federal intervention will promote a "final and fair resolution" of the lawsuit through the federal courts. Apparently that outcome wasn't good enough for the United States, however, when it came to its own property.

Early on in this case, the Justice Department moved for and had the Seneca claim concerning federal property dismissed -- with the full support of theSenecas.

Why wasn't the federal government ready to live with this same "fair and final resolution" through the federal courts, which the editorial argues the rest of us should be happy to accept? Apparently what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander.

Finally, The News published a correction indicating that even if the suit against the state was thrown out, Erie County and the other defendants could still be sued without federal intervention. In fact, an enormous body of federal case law states just the opposite.

Because the state is a necessary party to this lawsuit -- its very sovereignty over the island is being challenged -- the lawsuit must be dismissed against all other defendants as well if the state case is dismissed. I remain confident, therefore, that without federal interference, the entire case will be thrown out.

All of this suggests, once again, that the federal government should keep its hands off and its nose out of Grand Island. This is especially true when the Seneca claim, beyond being blackmail for state and federal settlement money, simply has no merit.

Dennis T. Gorski Erie County Executive

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