Update: staking the Shinnecocks

by Walter Olson on June 19, 2005

On the day the Shinnecock Indian tribe filed the first of an expected series of lawsuits laying claim to wide swaths of the Hamptons (see Jun. 13), the tribe disclosed that its courtroom offensive was being underwritten by wealthy Detroit casino investors Marian Ilitch, who with her husband Michael founded Little Caesars Pizza and since then has gone on to purchase baseball’s Detroit Tigers as well as the city’s Red Wings hockey team, and real estate developer Michael Malik. “Gateway Funding Associates, a company backed by [Ilitch and Malik], signed an agreement with the tribe more than a year ago to pay for the lawsuit and other ‘economic development’ initiatives in exchange for a part of any future proceeds, said Tom Shields, a spokesman for Gateway.” Champerty has been defined as the practice of aiding in a lawsuit in return for a share in the benefits being sued over; it was illegal at common law but “the prohibitions have been greatly relaxed in modern times” and in some cases abolished. (Katie Thomas, “Shinnecocks launch legal claim to Hamptons land”, Newsday, Jun. 16; “Lawsuit backers invest in casinos” (sidebar), Jun. 16; James Langton, “Native American tribe lays claim to the Hamptons”, Sunday Telegraph (U.K.), Jun. 19).