HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 20Issue 18Michigan AG Withdraws Request for High Court Review of Lansing Casino Decision

In a June 3, 2014 letter to the Clerk of the United States Supreme Court, Michigan Solicitor General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, withdrew the State of Michigan’s Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (“Petition”) in Michigan v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The Petition, filed on May 14,2014, was in response to a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit allowing the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Tribe”) to continue its pursuit of a casino development in Lansing.  The Sixth Circuit has decided that the Tribe was immune from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Tribe is proposing to invest $245 million in building and operating a 125,000 square foot casino with 3,000 slot machines and 48 gaming tables.

In its decision, the court affirmed the Tribe’s sovereign immunity even with respect to commercial endeavors. Importantly, the Court did not reach the issue of whether the land the Tribe acquired under the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act would qualify as “Indian lands” under federal law, which is necessary for the tribe to be able to conduct gaming on the property under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In Bay Mills, the Court noted that states have other means of enjoining unlawful gambling activities, such as denying gaming licenses, “bring[ing] suit against tribal officials or employees seeking an injunction against an illegal and unlicensed gambling operation under state law . . . [or] utiliz[ing] the Michigan penal code [to] prosecute . . . anyone who maintains – or even frequents – an unlawful gambling establishment.” 572 U.S.  __ (2014).

According to the Michigan Attorney General’s Director of Communications, Joy Yearout:

“[t]he Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bay Mills about the scope of tribal immunity resolved an important legal question, namely, whom a state should sue when a tribe violates federal law.  We now know the state must sue the tribal officials, not the tribe itself.  This clarification has resolved some conflicts among the lower courts and thus eliminated the need for the Supreme Court to step in at this stage.

As you may recall, the Sixth Circuit’s decision addressed a preliminary injunction to stop the Tribe’s application.  Now, the case will go back to the district court to proceed on the merits about whether the Sault Tribe violated its compact and whether the Tribe can move forward to take the land into trust.

In those proceedings, Michigan will continue to seek to hold the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, through its officials, to the promises it made concerning gaming in this state.”

Meanwhile, tribal officials expressed their continued belief in the Tribe’s legal position and commitment to forge ahead with the Lansing project.

 

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