June 26th, 2012
On Monday June 18, the United States Supreme Court issued two new Indian law decisions.
In MATCH-E-BE-NASH-SHE-WISH BAND OF POTTAWATOMI INDIANS v. PATCHAK et al, the United States Supreme Court held in an 8-1 decision that plaintiff David Patchak could sue the United States under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and challenge a decision by the Secretary of Interior to take land into trust for the tribe.
Patchak alleged a variety of economic, environmental, and aesthetic harms as a result of the Band’s proposed use of the property to operate a casino, and he requested injunctive and declaratory relief reversing the Secretary’s decision to take title to the land.
Indian nations are worried that this case open the floodgates to challenges to any and all decisions by the Secretary to take land into trust for any purpose. The Nimbys (not in my back yard) will be out in force to try to stop tribal developments.
In 1934, the United States enacted the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) and authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire property “for the purpose of providing land to Indians.” 25 U. S. C. §465. The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Band), an Indian tribe federally recognized in 1999, requested the Secretary to take into trust a tract of land to be used “for gaming purposes.” The Secretary took title in 2009 and Patchak sued. The U.S. District Court did not reach the merits of the suit because it ruled that he lacked prudential standing to challenge the Secretary’s acquisition of the property. The D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and also rejected the argument that sovereign immunity barred the plaintiff's suit.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision and Patchak can sue to reverse the Secretary's decision to take the land into trust for the tribe. Justice Sotomayor filed the lone dissent.
Read more on this case in Indian Country Today: