Judge dismisses gaming case filed by Cayuga Nation faction

The LakeSide Entertainment facility in Union Springs, New York. Photo from 500 Nations

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a gaming lawsuit filed by one faction of the Cayuga Nation of New York.

Three council members -- Clint Halftown, Tim Twoguns and Gary Wheeler -- sued Union Springs in hopes of protecting LakeSide Entertainment from the village's anti-gambling laws. The Class II facility is located on ancestral Cayuga Nation territory but its legality is contested.

Three rival council members who oppose Halftown's group tried to intervene in the suit. But Judge David Hurd determined that the so-called Unity Council lacked standing to represent the Cayuga Nation because the Bureau of Indian Affairs has not confirmed its legitimacy.

"The Unity Council has failed to demonstrate that it is the legally recognized governing body of the Cayuga Nation at this time," Hurd wrote on December 19, 2014.

Hurd has now concluded that Halftown can't proceed either. The judge said he lacked the authority to determine who represents the Cayuga Nation in federal court.

"Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to resolve such intra-tribal disputes that involve [Cayuga] Nation law," Hurd wrote in the 11-page decision.

The ruling does not resolve a key issue -- whether the facility is legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But the village believes it can enforce local laws at the site, an attorney told The Auburn Citizen.

An attorney for Halftown meanwhile told the paper that he plans to challenge the ruling. The case will now go to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The two factions have been at odds for the better part of a decade. The split is significant because Halftown's group supports gaming while the rival Unity Council does not.

In February 2015, the BIA said it will continue to recognize all six leaders as the "last undisputed leadership" of the tribe. Halftown is considered the tribe's representative to the federal government.

The agency's Eastern Region director said the "interim recognition decision is intended to provide the nation with additional time to resolve this dispute without BIA interference."

Get the Story:
With Cayuga Nation's leadership in dispute, judge rules Halftown doesn't have standing to file lawsuit against Union Springs (The Auburn Citizen 5/20)
Cayugas approach $2M in unpaid taxes (The Finger Lake Times 5/19)

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