The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a concerned Wayland citizen and returned the fate of the Gun Lake Casino to a federal trial court.
In an 8-1 opinion issued this morning in Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak et al
, the U.S. Supreme Court held that former Wayland Township Trustee David Patchak had legal standing to sue the U.S. government to prevent land being taken into trust for the Gun Lake Casino. The opinion was authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the former Solicitor General of the United States who was appointed to the Court by Pres. Obama in 2009.
Today’s ruling means that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will consider whether the U.S. Secretary of the Interior was legally allowed to take land in trust for the Gun Lake Band in 2009. The validity of the land-in-trust transaction is critical to the casino, because if the land cannot be held in trust by the federal government, it cannot be used for Class III gaming, a prohibition that would include many games commonly played at casinos, such as slot machines, blackjack, craps and roulette.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that Mr. Patchak is entitled to his day in court,” said Matthew T. Nelson, a partner and chair of the Appellate Law Group at Warner Norcross who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. “We believe that once Mr. Patchak has his day in court, he will be vindicated. The government violated federal law by taking land into trust so the Gun Lake Band could operate a casino in Wayland.”
There were two issues before the Supreme Court, both of which have to do with Patchak’s ability to bring a lawsuit. The first deals with whether or not he had standing to challenge the federal government’s decision to take land into trust for the Gun Lake Band so it could operate a casino. The government and the Band had argued that he does not.
The second issue deals with the government’s argument that once it took the land into trust for the Gun Lake Band, sovereign immunity prevented Patchak from challenging the legality of the government’s administrative action. However, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s argument in its entirety.
In today’s ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed that Patchak asserted “a garden-variety…claim” challenging illegal action by the government. The opinion held that neighbors to a casino “like Patchak are reasonable, indeed, predictable challengers” of the government’s decisions to take land into trust for tribal casinos.
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