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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

On May 27, 2014 the Supreme Court issued a ruling on a tribal immunity case, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community. Here is the link to their decision: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/michigan-v-bay-mills-indian-community/

It was a narrow case with a decision rendered on one specific issue. In a five to four decision the Supreme Court held that Michigan’s lawsuit against the Bay Mills Indian Community to stop a tribal casino operating outside of Indian lands was barred by tribal sovereign immunity.

Its decision appears be limited to the specific facts involved in this case.  Tribes that rely on this decision to engage in off-reservation commercial activity now know that they may not be able to rely on the Bay Mills decision for broad immunity, especially if an aggrieved plaintiff has no other remedies available. 

The decision reinforces the loophole that states can sue tribes for illegal gaming activity on Indian land but they can’t sue them for the same activity on off-Indian lands. Whether and how this decision applies to principles of tribal sovereignty involving future off-reservation commercial activities remains open, and one area that the Court purposefully left open.  Indian Tribes throughout the country did not gain an outright win with the Court’s opinion.

Michigan remains able to deny a license for an off-reservation casino. If the tribe went ahead with the project anyway, Michigan still retains the right to sue tribal officials to stop the gaming activity and, if necessary, invoke its criminal laws.  In addition, any state can still seek a waiver to allow lawsuits for off-reservation gaming activity as part of their compact with a tribe regarding on-reservation gaming.

This decision does not speak to the unique Arizona v. Tohono O’odham situation. It’s effect upon current litigation is questionable at best. In other words, this decision does nothing to advance or deny either side’s position on the proposed casino in Glendale. It is still expected that Rep. Trent Franks’ bill, HB 1410, will be voted up or down in the US Senate this summer.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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Caitlin McGlade of the Arizona Republic has a story on a Supreme Court case that may affect the Tohono O’odham’s prospects of building a casino in Glendale. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com//community/glendale/articles/20131118west-valley-casino-appeal-delayed-until-us-supreme-court-decision.html?source=nletter-

The state as well as other stakeholders such as the Tribes opposed to the TO Casino have asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to wait until the Supreme Court renders a decision on tribal immunity. The Supreme Court schedule begins in October and they hear their last case arguments in April. In May they begin to announce decisions. It is assumed that the 9th Circuit Court will agree and wait until the results of the State of Michigan vs. the Bay Mills Indian Community are rendered.

The TO case has no common ground with the Michigan case but the decision that flows from the Michigan decision will definitively impact the issue of tribal sovereign immunity across the country. The Supreme Court decision may help the Valley tribes stop the TO’s plans but it’s a double-edged sword and will affect the concept of tribal sovereign immunity. How much is anyone’s guess — it could be a little or it could be a lot.  

Sovereign immunity is a complex issue and as with all rights can and has been used positively and negatively. It provides all Indian Tribes with the right to determine their long term destinies and protects them legally. It is a concept not often understood and many have  realized, too late, that they have no legal rights on reservation land.

Lately the local media has offered citizen comments on the issue of the casino. The common theme is that the Tribes opposing the casino are greedy and are attempting to thwart competition. It is a simplistic and false notion offered repeatedly to those who are not invested in the outcome but may have a voice in the ultimate decision. They conveniently ignore a major consequence – the destruction of the State Gaming Compact and its effects. There are people who get it and understand that if the delicate balance achieved by the Compact is destroyed the door is open to see the proliferation of casinos throughout the Phoenix Metro area. There are many other reasons to keep this casino out of Glendale but they have been offered by me and others ad nausea.

So, we wait.

© Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to :http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

sup ct 2I preface this recitation of the legal timeline of litigation regarding the casino by saying, that IT DOES NOT MATTER how any of these suits was decided- for or against either side – because in every case the decision was appealed to a higher court. In some remaining cases further appeals of lower court decisions will occur. Any outstanding legal decisions, mark my words, will also be appealed. I believe that the final decision will rest with the United States Supreme Court. I do not know which of the issues will make its way there but one of them will. It will be several years before this issue is decided in its finality. Quite frankly, it does not matter if you and I are for or against the casino. It does not matter if the Tohono O’odham promises a million jobs. None of that matters. What will matter is some highly technical legal issue that will be the determinant of a final decision.

  • 2001  The land in question is annexed by Glendale; later that year annexation repealed and abandoned by Glendale
  • prop 2022002  Voters of state approve Proposition 202, the gaming compact; members of the Tohono O’odham actively and publicly advocated for its passage
  • 2003  The Tribe, under a shell company, Rainer Resources, Inc. buys the 134 acre parcel within Glendale’s borders
  • 2009  The Tribe announces plans to build casino with a major, state-wide Press Release and on the same day visits Glendale City Hall to announce they are coming;  In July the Tribe sues Glendale over its claim of annexation of land
  • 2010  In March the Tribe sues Bureau of Indian Affairs to compel it to take land into trust for reservation; In July the Bureau of Indian Affairs approves taking 54 of 134 acres into trust provisionally for a reservation pending outcome of other litigation and gaming approval; In September Glendale sues stating the TO needs state officers’ approval and the Gila River Tribe sues because the Department of the Interior acted improperly in deciding land could be annexed by the TO
  • judge 12011  In May Judge Campbell rules that the TO can not build a casino until all legal actions exhausted; In July a state law allowing Glendale to block TO land through annexation is struck down upon appeal; In August The National Indian Gaming Commission rejects a casino ordinance for the Tohono O’odham Nation; In September  U.S. Rep. Trent Franks offers a bill to stop what he called an “illegal” Indian casino proposed near Glendale
  • 2012  In April the 9th Circuit Court to decide two legal issues initiated by the Gila River Tribe and the State of Arizona; In June US House of Representative  passes Rep. Franks’ bill; however, the bill does not make it through the Senate and the 9th Circuit upholds one suit in favor of the TO land into trust decision; other suit still pending their decision
  • bill2013  The Gila River Tribe files suit contending the TO violated the voter approved state gambling compact; In April oral arguments heard; The decision is pending; U. S. Representative Trent introduces another bill to stop new casinos from being established after 2013

 

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