HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 19U.S. Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Vanderbilt Casino Case

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari filed by the State of Michigan in the matter involving the Bay Mills Indian Community’s (“Bay Mills Tribe”) Vanderbilt casino.  In announcing its decision to take up this case, the Supreme Court identified the “two recurring questions of jurisprudential significance” that will be reviewed:

“The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq. (IGRA), authorizes an Indian tribe to conduct class III gaming under limited circumstances and only on "Indian lands." 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(1). This dispute involves a federal court's authority to enjoin an Indian tribe from operating an illegal casino located off of "Indian lands." The petition presents two recurring questions of jurisprudential significance that have divided the circuits: 1. Whether a federal court has jurisdiction to enjoin activity that violates IGRA but takes place outside of Indian lands [and] 2. Whether tribal sovereign immunity bars a state from suing in federal court to enjoin a tribe from violating IGRA outside of Indian lands.”

The Bay Mills Tribe had opened a casino in Vanderbilt, Michigan in November, 2010 on land that was approximately 125 miles south of its reservation land located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The casino was closed following the entry of a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in March, 2011.  The Bay Mills Tribe then appealed this decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the District Court.  The State of Michigan then appealed the Sixth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Notably, the U.S. Solicitor General filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Federal Government which argued against the Court reviewing this case.

In a press release following the Supreme Court’s decision, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said, “[t]oday's ruling sets the stage for an important discussion about the states' ability to halt the unrestrained expansion of off-reservation tribal casino gambling. We look forward to making our case before the nation's highest court this fall."

The Bay Mills Tribe responded to the Supreme Court’s decision with the following statement, “The Bay Mills Indian Community is deeply concerned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review this case as it is in any case where it appears the Court may examine the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity. We remain confident that the nation’s highest Court will agree with our position.”

 

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