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IN RE ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK STATE

December 20, 2000

IN RE ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK STATE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-INTERVENOR,
V.
THE COUNTY OF ONEIDA, NEW YORK AND THE COUNTY OF MADISON, NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCURN, Senior U.S. District Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Oneida Indian Nation of New York State (the Nation) moves pursuant to the All-Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, for an injunction enjoining Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc., its president, Scott Peterman, and its officers, agents, servants, employees and those persons in active concert or participation with any of the foregoing (collectively UCE), from pursuing an action filed in Supreme Court, County of Oneida, captioned as Peterman v. Pataki, No. 99-533. For the following reasons, the Nation's motion is denied.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Familiarity with the facts and procedural history of this case is assumed. UCE describes itself as a not-for-profit organization comprised of landowners implicated in this action (alternatively referred to as the land claim litigation). UCE first surfaced in this land claim litigation in January 1999 — shortly before the court appointed a "settlement master" to conduct mediation designed to reconcile the complex land claim issues this case presents. By letter dated January 4, 1999, UCE sought to postpone the deadline for submissions of nominees to serve as settlement master in order for its counsel to become acquainted with the case. Stating that UCE was not a party to the action, the court denied that request by letter dated January 7, 1999 (see Docket No. 76).

Shortly thereafter, on January 22, 1999, UCE moved to intervene in this action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a) & (b). In conjunction with its intervention motion, UCE filed an "answer in intervention" (see Docket No. 81). UCE's proposed answer contained a countersuit against the Nation alleging that the 1993 Gaming Compact*fn2 entered into by the Nation and then Governor Mario Cuomo — was null and void because it was never ratified by the Legislature of the State of New York.*fn3 Among other things, the proposed answer also asserted an affirmative defense alleging that, by virtue of the illegal Gaming Compact, the Nation was unjustly enriched through the operation of the Turning Stone Casino.

By letter order dated January 27, 1999, the court held in abeyance UCE's motion to intervene, as well as its proposed answer and countersuit, pending resolution of previously filed motions to amend the complaint and certify a defendant class (see Docket No. 83). Shortly thereafter, the court appointed a settlement master and mediation commenced. On March 29, 1999, the court heard oral argument with respect to the motions to amend the complaint and certify a defendant class. At that time, in order to facilitate the ongoing mediation, the court stayed any further proceedings in the case until May 26, 1999.

Previous to the March 1999 hearing, on March 5, 1999, UCE commenced an action in Supreme Court, Oneida County against the Nation, among others (see Complaint (3-5-99), Docket No. 150, Exh I).*fn4 Similar to the countersuit contained in its federal intervention papers, UCE's state court action attacks the legality of the Gaming Compact. Specifically, UCE contends that the Gaming Compact is null and void because it (1) violates Article 1, Section 9, of the New York State Constitution, (2) contravenes public policy against class III gaming activity, and (3) violates the separation of powers doctrine insofar as the New York State Legislature has not ratified the Gaming Compact and, thus, no valid authority exists for the Nation to conduct class III gaming activity (Id. ¶¶ 31-33).*fn5 UCE thus seeks a declaratory judgment invalidating the Gaming Compact, and an injunction terminating all illegal class III gaming activities both on and off the Turning Stone Casino premises.

The Nation now brings this motion pursuant to the All-Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, seeking an order enjoining UCE from pursuing the state court action.*fn6

DISCUSSION

The All-Writs Act provides federal courts with the broad power to issue "all writs necessary and appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law." 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (1994). The Anti-Injunction Act, implicated here because the UCE action is currently pending in state court, precludes a federal court from staying existing proceedings in a state court except where "expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or when necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments." 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (1994). Read together, the two statutes allow this court to stay UCE's state court proceeding if necessary in aid of its jurisdiction or to protect its judgments. See In re Joint Eastern and Southern Dist. Asbestos Litigation, 134 F.R.D. 32, 36-37 (E.D.N Y 1990).

The Nation seeks to enjoin UCE from pursuing its state court gaming action on the ground that maintenance of that action interferes with this court's jurisdiction and control over the land claim litigation. Relying primarily on In re Baldwin-United Corp., 770 F.2d 328 (2d Cir. 1985), the Nation contends that UCE's state court challenge to the Gaming Compact impermissibly intrudes and disrupts settlement negotiations in this action. Opposing the motion for a stay, UCE argues that Baldwin-United is entirely distinguishable from the present case and, thus, does not provide a basis for the granting of an injunction.

In Baldwin-United, the Second Circuit recognized that a stay of state court proceedings is appropriate under the "necessary in aid of jurisdiction" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act where actions in state court would frustrate the district court's efforts to craft a settlement. See 770 F.2d at 336. Baldwin-United involved a complex multi-district federal litigation with 26 separate class actions. See id. Eighteen of those actions had reached stipulated settlements, and settlement negotiations were ongoing in the remaining eight. See id. In affirming the district court's issuance of a stay enjoining 31 states from bringing derivative actions in various state courts, the Second Circuit held that "the district court had before it a class action proceeding so far advanced that it was the virtual equivalent of res over which the district judge required full control." Id. at 337.

Recognizing that a closer question existed as to the remaining eight non-settling defendants, the Court held that the issuance of the stay was not erroneous as to those actions so long as there was a "substantially significant prospect" that the same would be settled in the "reasonably near future." Id. at 338. However, the Court noted that if a prompt settlement was no longer likely, the injunction entered by the district court might appropriately be lifted because the situation would fall within the rule that "in ...


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