On February 27, Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the Secretary of the Interior determining an act of Congress mandated ending the case. The final dismissal of this case (Patchak v. Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, et al., 16-498)puts an end to a decade long land development dispute involving property owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She -Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (‘the tribe”) and owners of the Gun Lake Casino.

The parcel of land was held in trust of the tribe since it was petitioned to the Secretary of the Interior in 2005. When the tribe was given the go-ahead to build a casino on the land in 2008, a nearby resident, David Patchak, filed a lawsuit challenging the Secretary of the Interior’s decision toward the trust on statutory grounds. The tribe built the Gun Lake Casino on the land in 2011.

After several years of litigation, the court eventually dismissed Patchak’s suit with the passage of the Gun Lake Act in 2014. Mr. Patchak’s lawyer argued the 2014 law violated the separation-of-powers principle in the Constitution, thus bringing the case in front of SCOTUS.

With Tuesday’s decision, SCOTUS affirmed the final resolution to ending the lawsuit by a 6-3 vote. Stating that the Gun Lake Act did not violate Article III of the Constitution and that the Act validly reinstates sovereign immunity from the suit.

“This decision ends a decades-long struggle and ensures the Tribe can carry on our Elders’ vision for growth and self-sufficiency.” stated Scott Sprague, Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe. “We are thankful the Supreme Court upheld the many lower court decisions in favor of the Tribe.  This is a significant development for not only the Tribe, but also all of Indian Country.” 

Beyond resolving an important issue of constitutional law, the Supreme Court’s decision brings the long-running lawsuit to an end, thereby providing the Tribe certainty and security in its crucial land-development effort.

To view a video of comments regarding the ruling made by the Tribal Council on February 28, please follow the attached link: 



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