Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Supreme Court Allows Challenge to Gun Lake Tribal Casino to Proceed Forward

On June 18th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the closely watched Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak, 567 U.S.__(2012). The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (or “Gun Lake Band”) opened Michigan’s newest Indian casino in February 2011. The casino is located in the western-Michigan town of Wayland. The Gun Lake Band’s odyssey to open a tribal casino spanned over a decade and was wrought with several legal challenges.

Shortly after the federal courts rejected a lawsuit brought by the Michigan Gambling Opposition, David Patchak launched a second legal challenge. Patchak owns property close to the site of the Gun Lake Band’s then proposed tribal casino, which has since opened at the site. Patchak did not allege that he had a legal interest in the land to be taken into trust. Rather, Patchak brought an action under the federal Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) asserting that the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”) did not authorize the Department of Interior to take land into trust for the Gun Lake Band.

The significance of Patchak’s argument lies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009). Carcieri held that the IRA requires an Indian tribe be “under federal jurisdiction” as of June 18, 1934, the date of enactment of the IRA, in order for the Secretary of the DOI to acquire property “for the purpose of providing land to Indians.” Patchak relied on the APA to derive standing to bring his lawsuit. Patchak also relied on the APA for a waiver of sovereign immunity. The remedy Patchak sought is the issuance of an injunction prohibiting the DOI from taking the Gun Lake Band land into trust. The basis for the injunction, in Patchak’s opinion, is that the requirements of the IRA cannot be satisfied.

Both the federal government and the Gun Lake Band argued that only the Quiet Title Act (“QTA”) could grant the waiver of sovereign immunity. Under the theory advanced by the federal government and the Gun Lake Band, the APA waiver of sovereign immunity was negated. The Court determined that the QTA only applies to quiet title actions where a person claims an interest in the property that conflicts with, or is superior to, the government’s claim in the property. After determining the QTA was not applicable to Patchak’s claims, the Court reasoned that the exception causing the APA waiver of sovereign immunity to be negated did not apply. The Court then concluded that Patchak has standing under the APA to pursue his action.

To read more about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Gun Lake Band’s case and its impact, check out the latest edition of Gaming Legal News.