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Land to Trust Challenges Heard by U.S. Supreme Court

May 18, 2012 | Posted by Seffernick, Aubrey | Print this page

The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument from David Patchak, an individual opposed to gaming, who sued to stop the opening of a casino by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan. Mr. Patchak's two related legal challenges made their way to the highest court last month. A threshold issue the case raises is whether a private citizen has legal “standing,” or the right, to challenge the federal process of taking land into trust for an Indian tribe. This decision could impact a number of land-to-trust applications throughout the country facing opposition from individual and community groups.


Mr. Patchak challenged the decision to put land into trust, saying that the move was illegal since the tribe had not been recognized by the government in 1934 when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. He relies on the 2009 Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar that held that the Interior Secretary could put lands in trust only for tribes that were recognized before 1934. The Carcieri decision has garnered much criticism from tribes, and legislation is currently being considered to reverse the decision.


In addition to the issue whether Mr. Patchak even has standing to bring the suit, the government and the tribe argue that the Quiet Title Act bars lawsuits attempting to overturn a decision to take title to lands in trust for tribes. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling later this summer.


Links to the cases can be found here.