07-526 CARCIERI, GOV. OF RI, ET AL. V. KEMPTHORNE, SEC. OF INTERIOR
What the hell does that mean?
Well, awhile back, the First Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island can take land into trust.
Yeah, that stinks.
But wait - the Governor of Rhode Island, Donald Carcieri, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States for a of writ of certiorari in the case.
So what’s a writ of certiorari?
Great question. A writ of certiorari, also known as ‘the rule of four’, means that at least four of the judges must agree to grant a second look at a certain contested court case. This alone is a significant achievement for the petitioner, because limited resources and jurisdictional issues weed out most of the requests which come before the Supreme Court. In fact, only between 80 to 150 of roughly 7,500 cases are accepted each year.
Still, what’s that got to do with us?
Well, stay with me. In the orignial Carcieri V. Kempthorne case, the Governor was protesting the taking of purchased lands, meaning non-reservation lands, into trust by the Narragansett Tribe, which was federally recognized after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. And we all know that once land goes into trust, it is taken off the tax rolls and becomes a part of a sovereign nation.
But still, that case is for Rhode Island.
Ah, but there’s the rub – it’s not! See the “et al” part of the Certiorari Granted thing?
Well, Massachusetts is one of the “et al”. We signed on to the suit.
So… if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Rhode Island after reviewing the case, it’s as if Massachusetts wins, too?
Bingo! (No pun intended.)
And you said most of these cases don’t even get a second look?
So this is good, huh?
It ain't bad. In fact, if it turns out that tribes recognized after 1934 can’t put land into trust in Massachusetts, there goes Governor Patrick’s big argument that his three-casino plan is only a necessary pre-emptive strike against the supposed “done deal” that an Indian tribe can build casinos here even if we don’t want them in this State.