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Nation v. Tanner

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 19, 2015

CAYUGA NATION and JOHN DOES 1-20, Plaintiffs,
HOWARD TANNER, Village of Union Springs Code Enforcement Officer, in his Official Capacity; EDWARD TRUFANT, Village of Union Springs Mayor, in his Official Capacity; CHAD HAYDEN, Village of Union Springs Attorney, in his Official Capacity; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE VILLAGE OF UNION SPRINGS, NEW YORK; and VILLAGE OF UNION SPRINGS, NEW YORK, Defendants.


JOHN G. POWERS, ESQ., NINA I. BROWN, ESQ., HANCOCK ESTABROOK LLP, Syracuse, NY, Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

CORNELIUS D. MURRAY, ESQ., O'CONNELL & ARONOWITZ, Albany, NY, Attorneys for Defendants.


DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.


On October 28, 2014, plaintiffs Cayuga Nation and John Does 1-20 ("plaintiffs") filed this action against defendants Howard Tanner, Code Enforcement Officer for the Village of Union Springs, New York ("the Village"); Edward Trufant, Mayor of the Village; Chad Hayden, the Village Attorney; the Board of Trustees of the Village; and the Village itself (collectively "defendants"). Also on that date, plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction and requested a temporary restraining order.

Generally, plaintiffs claim the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. ยงยง 2701-2721 ("IGRA"), preempts the Village's efforts to enforce local anti-gaming laws. They seek to enjoin defendants from restricting, interfering with, punishing, or otherwise penalizing any actions taken by the Cayuga Nation in furtherance of Class II gaming activities at Lakeside Entertainment, a gaming facility in the Village.

On October 29, 2014, an order was issued directing defendants to appear and show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be entered granting plaintiffs' requested relief. That order also temporarily restrained defendants from penalizing the Cayuga Nation for continuing the gaming operations at Lakeside Entertainment. Thereafter, defendants consented "to the extension of the currently-entered Temporary Restraining Order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(2) until such time as the Court rules on the presently pending preliminary injunction application." ECF No. 19. Defendants also filed a cross-motion to dismiss to the complaint.

Both motions are fully-briefed, and oral argument was heard on January 28, 2015, in Utica, New York.[1] Decision was reserved, and the parties were directed to notify this Court when the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") issued a decision regarding the leadership dispute within the Cayuga Nation. The parties have submitted the BIA's February 2015 decision as well as additional briefing on this issue.


The following facts have been gleaned from the complaint. In November 2003 the Cayuga Nation-a federally recognized Indian tribe-adopted a Class II gaming ordinance pursuant to IGRA. The National Indian Gaming Commission ("NIGC") subsequently approved the ordinance. In 2004, the Cayuga Nation opened Lakeside Entertainment on land it claims to be within the limits of its reservation. The facility closed in October 2005.

Cayuga Nation members Clint Halftown, Tim Twoguns, and Gary Wheeler began orchestrating the reopening of the facility in 2010. They obtained an architect's report stating that the use of Lakeside Entertainment for Class II gaming complied with state and local zoning, land use, and building codes. They also received a legal opinion letter from "Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, " reportedly confirming the legality of Lakeside Entertainment's operation. They further sent a letter to various state and local officials announcing their intent to reopen the facility, which formally reopened on July 3, 2013.

Code Enforcement Officer Tanner visited the facility on the day it reopened and expressed his opinion that the gaming activities were illegal and required a Certificate of Occupancy. The Village Board of Trustees met in executive session shortly thereafter and decided to enforce a 1958 anti-gaming ordinance ("the 1958 Ordinance") against the Cayuga Nation.[2] On July 9, 2013, the Village served plaintiffs with an "Order to Remedy Violations" charging the Cayuga Nation with conducting bingo without a license in violation of the 1958 Ordinance as well as unspecified violations of the Village zoning code. Compl., Ex. C. The Cayuga Nation's attorney responded in late July, advising Village attorney Hayden that the gaming activities complied with IGRA.

Betty Jane Radford, manager of Lakeside Entertainment, submitted a completed application for a Certificate of Occupancy to Code Enforcement Officer Tanner on August 8, 2013. Tanner requested additional information such as construction documents and site plans. The Cayuga Nation retained an architect and provided the Village with additional architectural reports in December 2013. Plaintiffs also installed eighty-six (86) additional ...

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