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State v. Shinnecock Indian Nation

February 7, 2008

STATE OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK STATE RACING AND WAGERING BOARD, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, AND TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE SHINNECOCK INDIAN NATION, FREDERICK C. BESS, LANCE A. GUMBS, RANDALLKING, AND KAREN HUNTER, DEFENDANTS.
TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE SHINNECOCK TRIBE A/K/A THE SHINNECOCK INDIAN NATION, FREDERICK C. BESS, LANCE A. GUMBS, AND RANDALL KING, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In the above-captioned consolidated actions, plaintiffs New York State, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (collectively, the "State"), and the Town of Southampton (the "Town") (collectively,"plaintiffs") sought to permanently enjoin defendants, the Shinnecock Indian Nation (the "Nation" or the "Shinnecock"), and its tribal officials sued in their official capacity (collectively, "defendants"), from constructing a casino and conducting certain gaming on a parcel of nonreservation property known as "Westwoods," which is situated in the western half of the Town in Suffolk County, New York ("Westwoods" or the "Westwoods land").

After conducting a bench trial, the Court held, by Memorandum and Order dated October 30, 2007 (the "October 30 Order") that plaintiffs met their burden for declaratory and injunctive relief that prevents the development of a casino at Westwoods that is not in full compliance with New York and Town laws and regulations. See New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation, Nos. 03-CV-3243, 03-CV-3466, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80443, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 30, 2007). The Court further ordered that plaintiffs submit a proposed judgment and permanent injunction and that defendants submit any objections thereto. Id. at *354. After receiving these submissions, the Court ordered the parties to confer regarding defendants' objections to plaintiffs' proposed permanent injunction, and ordered plaintiffs to submit a letter to the Court regarding any objections remaining after these further negotiations. See Order dated November 16, 2007. By letters to the Court dated December 20, 2007 and December 21, 2007, respectively, plaintiffs and defendants described the remaining areas of dispute regarding plaintiffs' proposed language for the permanent injunction. In particular, the central dispute related to whether the injunction should be limited to the construction and operation of a casino or gaming on Westwoods, as defendants contend, or should permanently enjoin any activity on the Westwoods land that violates Town zoning laws, as the Town suggests. The Court heard oral argument on this issue on January 29, 2008.*fn1

For the reasons set forth below, and as reflected in the Judgment and Permanent Injunction attached to this Memorandum and Order, the Court agrees with defendants that the permanent injunction should be limited to the construction and operation of a casino or gaming on Westwoods. Adoption of plaintiffs' proposed broad language would require the Nation to obtain prior approval from the Town zoning board for any activity on Westwoods, even if the Nation wanted to have a Tribal ceremony or cut down a tree for timber - activities the Nation contends it has conducted on Westwoods for hundreds of years and with respect to which plaintiffs have never enforced Town zoning laws - or potentially risk violation of the injunction. Moreover, if the Nation failed to obtain prior approval from the zoning board for any land use, the plaintiffs' broad injunctive language would permit the Town to bypass the ordinary local procedures for enforcement of zoning laws and, instead, use the injunction as a vehicle to enforce their zoning laws in federal court and have a federal court adjudicate whether each such potential violation warranted a contempt order. Although the Town stated at oral argument that it has no intention of invoking the Court's jurisdiction in such situations, the Court declines to adopt broad injunctive language that could federalize every zoning issue relating to the Westwoods land and transform the Court into a super-zoning board cloaked with the power to punish violators with civil contempt orders. In short, this Court will not allow the resolution of this litigation regarding whether gaming can be conducted at Westwoods to convert the federal court, through a broad permanent injunction, into a de facto zoning board that potentially could be required to review every future land dispute on Westwoods between the Nation and the Town. That is not the proper role of a federal court. As outlined below, such a result would be inconsistent with Second Circuit cases outlining the proper parameters of a permanent injunction under Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and, moreover, is unwarranted given the scope of the trial and the Court's decision in this particular case.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"`The contours of an injunction are shaped by the sound discretion of the trial judge and, barring an abuse of that discretion, . . . will not be altered on appeal.'" United States v. Carson, 52 F.3d 1173, 1184 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting George Basch Co. v. Blue Coral, Inc., 968 F.2d 1532, 1542 (2d Cir. 1992)); see also Siskind v. Sperry Ret. Program, 47 F.3d 498, 503 (2d Cir. 1995) (noting that "structure of injunctive relief lies within the sound discretion of the trial judge"); Metro. Council, Inc. v. Safir, 99 F. Supp. 2d 438, 442 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) ("The issuance and scope of any injunction is committed to the Court's sound discretion. . . .")

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Scope of Injunctive Relief Under Rule 65

Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the "Contents and Scope of Every Injunction and Restraining Order." Specifically, the Rule states that "every order granting an injunction . . . must . . . state the reasons why it issued[;] . . . state its terms specifically; and . . . describe in reasonable detail - and not by referring to the complaint or other document - the act or acts restrained or required." Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d). "`To comply with the specificity and clarity requirements [of Rule 65(d)], an injunction must be specific and definite enough to apprise those within its scope of the conduct that is being proscribed.'" S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Clorox Co., 241 F.3d 232, 240-41 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting N.Y. State Nat'l Org. For Women v. Terry, 886 F.2d 1339, 1352 (2d Cir. 1989)) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). "This rule against broad, vague injunctions is designed to prevent uncertainty and confusion on the part of those to whom the injunction is directed, and to be sure that the appellate court knows precisely what it is reviewing." Rosen v. Siegel, 106 F.3d 28, 32 (2d Cir. 1997) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also In re Worldcom, Inc. Sec. Litig, No. 02 Civ. 3288, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76272, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 16, 2007) ("Rule 65 is concerned with vagueness insofar as a vague injunction poses `the threat of a contempt citation for violation of an order so vague that an enjoined party may unwittingly and unintentionally transcend its bounds.'") (quoting Sanders v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l, 473 F.2d 244, 247 (2d Cir. 1972)).

For these reasons, according to the Second Circuit, "`[u]nder Rule 65(d), an injunction must be more specific than a simple command that the defendant obey the law.'" S.C. Johnson, 241 F.3d at 240 (quoting Peregrine Myanmar Ltd. v. Segal, 89 F.3d 41, 51 (2d Cir. 1996)); see also Swift and Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375, 396 (1905) ("[W]e . . . are bound by the first principles of justice not to sanction a decree so vague as to put the whole conduct of the defendants' business at the peril of a summons for contempt. We cannot issue a general injunction against all possible breaches of the law."); Sterling Drug, Inc. v. Bayer AG, 14 F.3d 733, 748 (2d Cir. 1994) (holding that injunction tracing language of antitrust statute unfairly required plaintiff to "guess - on pain of contempt - at what conduct the [statute] proscribes" and thus imposed "too onerous a burden"); Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1201 (11th Cir. 1999) ("As this injunction would do no more than instruct the City to `obey the law,' we believe that it would not satisfy the specificity requirements of Rule 65(d) and that it would be incapable of enforcement."); Louis W. Epstein Family P'ship v. Kmart Corp., 13 F.3d 762, 771 (3d Cir. 1994) ("Broad, non-specific language that merely enjoins a party to obey the law or comply with an agreement . . . does not give the restrained party fair notice of what conduct will risk contempt."); Beatty v. United States, 191 F.2d 317, 321 (8th Cir. 1951) ("Blanket injunctions against general violation of a statute are repugnant to American spirit and should not lightly be either administratively sought or judicially granted."); In re Worldcom, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76272, at *10 ("[U]nder Rule 65(d), an injunction must be more specific than a simple command that the defendant obey the law.") (citation and quotation marks omitted); Lyddy v. Civil Bridgeport Bd. of Educ., No. 3:06CV1420, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66920, at *21 (D. Conn. Sept. 11, 2007) ("As a substantive matter, such relief cannot be granted because under Rule 65(d), an injunction must be more specific than a simple command that the defendants obey the law."); Mannington Mills, Inc. v. Robert C. Shinn, Jr., 877 F. Supp. 921, 925 (D.N.J. 1995) ("Broad-based `obey the law' injunctive relief is generally prohibited.").

Here, plaintiffs' proposed permanent injunction represents the very kind of broadbased, "obey the law" injunctive relief that courts, including the Second Circuit, have criticized. Specifically, not only does plaintiffs' proposed injunction enjoin the Shinnecock from "engaging in gambling, or constructing or operating a facility in which it is intended that the conduct of bingo or any other game of chance will occur" without first obtaining various government approvals and permits, (see Plaintiffs' Proposed Judgment and Permanent Injunction, submitted December 20, 2007, ¶ 1(a)), but the proposed injunction also enjoins, inter alia, the following activities:

b. clearing, excavating, grading, regrading, bulldozing, removing trees, or engaging in any other work in preparation for the future use of Westwoods or any portion thereof, without prior site plan approval or written permission of the Southampton Town Planning Board . . . provided, however, that nothing in this subparagraph "b" shall be construed to require any person otherwise enjoined or restrained hereby to obtain prior site approval or written permission of the Town Planning Board in order to engage in any activity, use or construction to which the site plan review process does not apply under Southampton Town Code § 330-181(A). c. the erecting, constructing, enlarging, altering, removing, improving, demolishing, converting or changing the use or nature of the occupancy of any building or structure at Westwoods or causing same to be done without first obtaining a building permit from the Town of Southampton, as required under Southampton Town Code § 123-9(A)(1). . . .

e. utilizing Westwoods, or any portion thereof, for any use other than those uses which are permitted uses for properties classified as R-60 zoning districts under Southampton Town Code § 330-6 and the Table of Use Regulations (Residence Districts) set forth at Southampton Town Code § 330-10, a copy of which is a t t a ched hereto and incorporated herein by reference; provided that nothing in this subparagraph (e) shall be deemed to enjoin or restrain any person otherwise enjoined or restrained hereby from seeking appropriate relief from the Town of Southampton as to any proposed use of Westwoods.

(See Plaintiffs' Proposed Judgment and Permanent Injunction, submitted December 20, 2007, ...


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