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Media Alerts - Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie Cty. v. Chaudhuri
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September 16, 2015
  Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie Cty. v. Chaudhuri
Headline: Second Circuit Holds That Seneca Nation Can Run a Casino on its Buffalo, New York Property

Area of Law: Indian Affairs

Issue presented: Whether the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission acted arbitrarily or capriciously, abused their discretion, or acted in violation of the law in concluding that the Seneca Nation's "Buffalo Parcel" could be used a class III gambling site under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Brief Summary: In August 2002, the Seneca Nation and the State of New York executed a Nation-State Gaming Compact under which the Seneca Nation would be allowed to establish class III gaming facilities (i.e., a casino) in Buffalo on lands acquired with funds from the Seneca Nation Settlement Act ("SNSA"). Several years later, the Seneca Nation proceeded to purchase nine acres of property in Buffalo, stating that the lands were acquired for the purposes set forth in the 2002 Compact. This triggered several rounds of litigation by plaintiffs, a coalition of individuals and organizations who oppose gambling. In their most recent action, the plaintiffs brought suit in the Western District of New York, claiming that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act forbade the Buffalo property from being used for class III gaming and that the National Indian Gaming Commission's approval of this usage had not been in accordance with federal law. The district court dismissed the plaintiff's claims, and the Second Circuit affirmed, ruling that the determination by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of the Interior that the Buffalo parcel was eligible for class III gaming had not been arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or in violation of the law.
To read the full opinion, please visit ">http://www.ca2.uscourt.../de.....1/1/hilite/


Extended Summary: The regulation of gaming by Indian tribes is governed by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA"). In order for Native American tribes to conduct gaming activities, the IGRA requires that the tribe have jurisdiction over that particular land, and that the property where the gaming is conducted qualify as "Indian lands."

The Second Circuit began by analyzing whether the Seneca Nation had jurisdiction over the Buffalo parcel, focusing on whether the Buffalo property qualified as a "dependent Indian community" under the Seneca Nation's tribal jurisdiction. To be a "dependent Indian community," two elements must exist. First, the property must be set aside by the federal government for for use by a Native American tribe. Second, the land must be under continued federal superintendence.

The court found that both requirements were satisfied here. First, the court determined that the Buffalo property qualified as a federal set-aside because the property was purchased with SNSA funds. The court explained that the SNSA had limited the purchase of Indian lands with SNSA funds to areas within the Seneca's "aboriginal area in the State or situated within or near proximity to former reservation land. Second, the court found that the Buffalo Parcel was subject to federal superintendence. "Congress - through the SNSA - set aside the Buffalo Parcel for the Seneca Nation's use in order to further tribal interests and provided that the Parcel would be subject to federal superintendence," the court explained. Accordingly, "the Seneca Nation has jurisdiction over this land, and New York has therefore been divested of its jurisdiction."

Having determined that the Seneca Nation had jurisdiction over the Buffalo property, the court next analyzed whether the property qualified as "Indian lands" for purposes of the IGRA. Although the plaintiffs argued that the Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission had erred in recognizing the parcel as "Indian lands," the Second Circuit disagreed, explaining that the Seneca Nation held sufficient title over the parcel.

Finally, the Second Circuit rejected the plaintiff's argument that a provision of the IGRA prohibited gaming on the Seneca Nation, explaining that this provision applied only to "lands acquired by the Secretary [of the Interior] in trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe," not - as here - to "lands held in restricted fee by a tribe." The court thus affirmed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint.

Panel: Judges Katzmann, Lohier, and Droney.

Argument: 01/16/ 2015

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/15/2015

Docket Number: 11-5171(L)

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Brian Byrne

Counsel: CORNELIUS D. MURRAY, O'Connell and Aronowitz, for Plaintiffs. KATHERINE J. BARTON, United States Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division. Michael Hoenig, Office of General Counsel, National Indian Gaming Commission,; Andrew S. Caulum, Office of the Solicitor, United States Department of the Interior, Robert G. Dreher, Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General; William J. Hochul, Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of New York; Mary E. Fleming, Assistant United States Attorney, Western District of New York,; Gina L. Allery, John L. Smeltzer, United States Department of Justice, Environment & National Resources Division, for Defendants┬┐ Appellees┬┐Cross┬┐Appellants.

Author of the Opinion: Judge Droney

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Emily Gold Waldman

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 09/16/2015 08:54 PM     2nd Circuit  

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