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Citizens Against Casino Gambling In Erie County v. County of Erie

April 20, 2007

CITIZENS AGAINST CASINO GAMBLING IN ERIE COUNTY, REV. G. STANFORD BRATTON, D. MIN., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NETWORK OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES, NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST GAMBLING EXPANSION, PRESERVATION COALITION OF ERIE COUNTY, INC., COALITION AGAINST CASINO GAMBLING IN NEW YORK-ACTION, INC., THE CAMPAIGN FOR BUFFALO- HISTORY ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURE, ASSEMBLYMAN SAM HOYT, MARIA WHYTE, JOHN MCKENDRY, SHELLY MCKENDRY, DOMINIC J. CARBONE, GEOFFREY D. BUTLER, ELIZABETH F. BARRETT, JULIE CLEARLY, ERIN C. DAVISON, ALICE E. PATTON, AND MAUREEN C. SCHAEFFER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF ERIE AND JOEL A. GIAMBRA, INTERVENOR-PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DIRK KEMPTHORNE,*FN1 IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, JAMES CASON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR FOR INDIAN AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, PHILIP N. HOGEN, IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING COMMISSION, AND NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 12, 2007, the Court issued a Decision and Order relative to four motions then pending in this action. Among its rulings, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. The Court also remanded to the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (the "NIGC") his approval of the Seneca Nation of Indians Class III Gaming Ordinance of 2002 as Amended. On remand, the NIGC Chairman was instructed to determine whether land ultimately purchased by the Seneca Nation of Indians ("SNI") in Buffalo for gaming is "Indian lands" as defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA") and to consider, if necessary, the applicability of section 20 of the IGRA, 25 U.S.C. § 2719, to the Buffalo Parcel. In light of the remand, the remainder of the Complaint was dismissed in its entirety. (Docket No. 67.)

On January 29, 2007, Defendants moved for reconsideration of the Decision and Order, pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on the need to correct three purported "clear errors" therein.*fn2 Specifically, Defendants argue that:

(1) The Court incorrectly found that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (the "DOI") lacks authority to interpret the IGRA, 25 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq.;

(2) The Court incorrectly found that the NIGC Chairman was required to make a site-specific determination when approving the Gaming Ordinance; and

(3) The Court misconstrued the law regarding the Quiet Title Act ("QTA"),

28 U.S.C. § 2409a, and erred in finding that the United States waived its sovereign immunity for this suit.

Plaintiffs' oppose the motion in all respects.*fn3 For the reasons fully set forth below, Defendants' motion for reconsideration is granted in part and denied in part.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Secretary's Authority to Interpret the IGRA

1. The Government's Position

The Government ("Defendants") first asks the Court to reconsider its statement that because the Secretary is not charged with the IGRA's administration, the Secretary's interpretation of the IGRA's terms is owed no deference.*fn4 According to Defendants, the Court's reliance on Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1250 (10th Cir. 2001) is misplaced because soon after the decision was issued, it was "superceded" and "overruled" by statute. Defendants urge that, contrary to the Court's statement, the Secretary has broad authority to interpret the IGRA.

In 1996, the Wyandotte Tribe involved in Sac and Fox Nation requested that the Secretary take into trust a tract of land on which the tribe intended to develop a class II and class III gaming facility. Id. at 1256. The tribe's request implicated Pub. L. 98-602, 98 Stat. 3149*fn5 , and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 25 U.S.C. ยง 465, the statute pursuant to which the Secretary may acquire land in trust for the purpose of providing land for Indians. In addition, because the land was acquired after the enactment of the IGRA and its provision prohibiting gaming on trust lands acquired after October 17, 1988, the Secretary considered whether the tribe's intended use of the tract would fall within one of the exceptions to the prohibition. Id. at 1254-56. The Secretary first opined that a tribal burying ground known as the Huron Cemetery, which was adjacent to the tract the tribe sought to have taken into trust and had been permanently reserved for use as a cemetery, was a "reservation" for purposes of the ...


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