Big Lagoon Rancheria asks 9th Circuit to rehear casino dispute

The Big Lagoon Rancheria of California is asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a gaming case that could impact tribes across the nation.

On January 21, the 9th Circuit said the tribe can't pursue a casino on its trust land because it wasn't "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The decision threatens the rights of tribes everywhere, attorneys for Big Lagoon said in their petition for rehearing.

"There simply will be no finality of federal land-into-trust acquisitions (for both Indian and non-Indian purposes) if the majority's decision remains intact," the attorneys wrote.

There is no guarantee that the 9th Circuit will rehear the case. But even if it does, the losing side will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, putting land-into-trust back before the justices only a few years after their decision in Carcieri v. Salazar injected uncertainty into the process.

Tribes have been lobbying Congress to fix the decision since it was issued in 2009. The effort has seen little success despite support from the Obama administration.

"The Carcieri decision from the Supreme Court was probably one of the worst decisions in a long time because it impacted a lot of tribes across the nation," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said last month during the State of Indian Nations address.

"The decision that just came down -- the Big Lagoon -- that really is scary for tribes that have had land-into-trust," Cladoosby added.

Turtle Talk has posted the petition for rehearing in the case, Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California.

9th Circuit Decision:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (January 21, 2014)

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