Michigan drops appeal in Soo Tribe off-reservation casino case

Artist's rendering of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino. Image from Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Facing another defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, the state of Michigan has withdrawn its appeal in an off-reservation gaming case.

Attorney General Bill Schuette sued the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians for proposing the $245 million Kewadin Lansing Casino. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, held the tribe didn't waive its sovereign immunity.

Schuette asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. But in light of the decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, the state has withdrawn its appeal.

"I have informed counsel for the tribe of this decision and am authorized by the tribe's counsel to state that the tribe does not oppose the withdrawal of the petition," Michigan Solicitor General Aaron D. Lindstrom said in a June 3 letter to the Supreme Court that was posted by Turtle Talk.

The withdrawal of the petition does not mean the Sault Tribe can open the casino. Even though the tribe itself has sovereign immunity -- as confirmed by the Supreme Court's decision in Bay Mills -- Schuette has indicated he will pursue other means to stop tribal officials from moving forward with the project, which has local support in Lansing.

Both the Soo Tribe and the Bay Mills Indian Community are seeking to engage in gaming on property that was acquired in connection with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The courts never got to that issue because sovereign immunity was raised first.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act generally bars gaming on land acquired after 1988. But Section 20 of the law contains an exception for tribes with land claim settlements.

Supreme Court Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (May 27, 2014)

6th Circuit Decision:
Michigan v. Sault Ste Marie Tribe (December 18, 2013)

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