Supreme Court decides Match-E-be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak

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On June 18, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Match-E-be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak, permitting an individual who owns land near a tribal casino in Michigan to challenge the federal government's acquisition of land in trust for the Band. While many commentators expected the Court to rely, at least in part, on its recent decision in Carcieri v. Salazar that tribes “not under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 could not receive land in trust from the federal government taking, the Court instead based its decision on standing, the federal government’s sovereign immunity, and the Quiet Title Act. It affirmed the decision of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and remanded for trial on the merits.

Procedural history

The Band was federally recognized in 1999. In 2001, it asked Department of the Interior to take land into trust for it in Wayland Township, Michigan (the “Bradley Property”). The Band wanted the land for gaming purposes, in order to obtain revenues for the Band and its people, consistent with the goals and principles of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In 2005, the Secretary of the Interior agreed to take land into trust, but did not take title at that time. Even so, the decision sparked the “MichGO” litigation. In the MichGO case, the U.S. District Court for the D.C. District and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, spanning a period from 2005 to 2008, considered, and ultimately rejected, attempts to stop Interior from making the land-into-trust acquisition for the Band.

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