Life After Patchak: What Does It Mean For Tribal Gaming in California?

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Originally published in Riverside Lawyer, October 2012.

The tribal gaming industry received a blow from the United States Supreme Court right before the high court ended its session for the summer. Whether the blow is a knock-out punch that will thwart plans for new tribal casinos in California and elsewhere, or simply a wake-up call resulting in a longer and more challenging process for tribal land acquisitions, remains to be seen.

The referenced court ruling was issued on June 18, 2012 – Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak, 567 U.S. ____ (2012). In that case, the court decisively held (8-1) that an individual owner (David Patchak) of property near the tribe’s Gun Lake Casino in Michigan had standing to challenge the Secretary of the Interior’s acquisition of land into trust for the tribe. The court determined that the U.S. government had waived its sovereign immunity and that Patchak had prudential standing to challenge the secretary’s acquisition of the land. The court reasoned that Patchak was not claiming any competing interest in the Gun Lake land, so the claim was not barred by the Quiet Title Act (QTA), and that he had asserted an interest “arguably within the zone of interests” protected or regulated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). As a result, the case has been sent back to the Michigan trial court for litigation on the merits.

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