A federal appeals court says a Nevada developer must exhaust his legal battle over the Grand Canyon Skywalk contract dispute in tribal court before going to the federal level.
A lawyer for Las Vegas businessman David Jin told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last October that the Hualapai tribal court system lacks authority to hear the case.
Tribal attorneys say the operation of the popular glass bridge in northern Arizona is governed by Hualapai law.
Jin invested $30 million to build the bridge that opened in 2007. He and the tribe have disagreed on management fees and an incomplete visitors' center.
The tribal corporation that manages Skywalk also is appealing a $28 million judgment for Jin upheld last month by an Arizona federal judge.
"This is a significant victory for the Hualapai people and for tribal sovereignty. The 9th Circuit's ruling shows deference to the tribal court system and its jurisdiction over these matters." -- Hualapai Tribe spokesman Dave Cieslak.
"The 9th Circuit's decision comes after the Hualapai Tribal Court already decided that the proper place for resolution of future Grand Canyon Skywalk fees and rights due David Jin is in arbitration. Judge King ordered that the parties resolve their contractual disputes by seeking an arbitration order in federal court. Therefore, the 9th Circuit decision is both late and of virtually no consequence to the current status of the case. We are confident, as we were when the U.S. District Court awarded David Jin $28.6 million in past management fees, that the federal arbitration process will protect David Jin's future rights to the Skywalk." --Mark Tratos, attorney for Grand Canyon Skywalk Development
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press modified.