Buena Vista Rancheria wants to intervene in gaming land suit

Artist's rendering of the proposed Buena Vue Casino. Image from Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday for permission to join a long-running lawsuit that challenges the tribe's gaming plans.

In 2004, the tribe entered into a Class III gaming compact with the state of California to operate a casino on its reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs let the agreement take effect without approving it or rejecting it.

Amador County filed a lawsuit and said the BIA should have rejected the compact, claiming that the reservation does not qualify as "Indian land" as required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. A federal judge dismissed the case, holding that the BIA's action was not reviewable in court.

In January 2011, the D.C. Circuit revived the suit. A three-judge panel found that the BIA's action -- or lack thereof -- can be reviewed and sent the case back to Judge Richard W. Roberts for further proceedings.

Three years later, not much has happened, leaving the casino plan in limbo 10 years after the compact was signed. That's why the tribe is asking to enter the dispute -- notably, the Obama administration has declined to participate in the appeal.

The federal government is "supposed to be acting in the tribe's best interest," attorney Padraic I. McCoy told the D.C. Circuit.

Attorney Dennis Whittlesey represents the county. He told the court that the tribe has waited too long to seek to intervene.

The judges on the panel posed tough question to both sides so it's not clear whether they favor any party. But they also wondered why there hasn't been a decision in the lower court since the January 2011 ruling.

"This case has been ready for a decision for three years now and there's been no decision," Judge A. Raymond Randolph said.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Amador County v. DOI. Oral arguments from yesterday's hearing are available on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.

Earlier DC Circuit Decision:
Amador County v. Salazar (May 6, 2011)

District Court Decisions from District of Columbia:
July 12, 2010 | January 8, 2009

Related Stories
9th Circuit kills lawsuit over Buena Vista Rancheria compact (1/30)
9th Circuit hears Buena Vista Rancheria compact dispute (1/15)
Buena Vista Rancheria casino in limbo amid court challenge (5/9)
DC Circuit revives lawsuit over Buena Vista Rancheria casino (5/6)

Join the Conversation