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United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak and Patchak v. Salazar

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: December 12, 2011
Case #: 11-246, 11-247
632 F.3d 702 (D.C. Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-dc-circuit/1553633.html

Standing: Whether a private individual who alleges injuries resulting from the operation of a gaming facility on Indian trust land has standing to challenge a decision of the Secretary of the Interior to take title to that land in trust, on the ground that the decision was not authorized by the Indian Reorganization Act, and (2) whether a suit of that nature is an action under the Quiet Title Act, which supplants section 702 of the Administrative Procedures Act’s waiver of sovereign immunity.

The Secretary of the Interior published notice in the Federal Register his decision to take property, known as the Bradley Tract, into trust for the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band (Band) to allow them to construct and operate a gambling facility on the property. Petitioner, a resident of the community in which the land is located, sought to enjoin the Secretary’s proposed transaction. He alleged injuries of negative effects of building and operating a casino in his community. Specifically, he argued that because the Band was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 25 U.S.C. §§ 461-79, did not authorize the Secretary to take the land into trust. The district court dismissed petitioner’s suit concluding, inter alia, that petitioner lacked standing under Section 702 of the Administrative Procedures Act because petitioner’s interests do not fall within the IRA’s “zone of interest.”

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Petitioner has standing to sue under Section 702 because of the various regulations that require the Interior Department to consider the impact of a proposed casino on surrounding land use. The Secretary further argued that if standing is found, Petitioner is bared from suing the federal government under the Quiet Title Act’s Indian land exception, which expressly retains federal government immunity from suit. The Seventh Circuit disagreed concluding that a suit to quiet title is a proceeding to establish a plaintiff’s title to real property. Petitioner is neither seeking a declaration that he owns the property, not is he an adverse claimant of the property. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a split in the circuit courts on these issues.