Judge removes Sault Tribe from off-reservation gaming lawsuit

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

A federal judge has removed from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians from an off-reservation gaming lawsuit that was filed by the state of Michigan.

The state was trying to prevent the tribe from submitting a land-into-trust application for the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino. In December 2013, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled that the tribe can't sued without its consent.

The state then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. But before the justices got to the petition, they issued a decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community that protected the Bay Mills Indian Community from being sued for operating an off-reservation casino.

The ruling prompted the state to withdraw its petition and, as part of a joint motion with the tribe, to seek the dismissal of the claims against the tribal government itself. Judge Robert Jonker agreed and removed the tribe in a December 3 decision.

The state will now submit an amended complaint and pursue individual tribal officials. The Bay Mills decision left open the door for that possibility but that doesn't necessarily mean the state will prevail.

The tribe has submitted a land-into-trust application for Lansing and another for a proposed casino in Huron Charter Township. Both sites were purchased in connection with the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act.

The tribe believes that the law mandates the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in trust. The agency, however, has yet to make a decision.

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

Get the Story:
Judge dismisses parts of Lansing casino suit (The Lansing State Journal 12/6)

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

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

Oral Arguments from the Indianz.Com SoundCloud:

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