...Really do come true.
Middleboro casino meets the end of the road.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT
"In reviewing the determination of the Court of Appeals, we are asked to interpret the statutory phrase “now under Federal jurisdiction” in §479. Petitioners contend that the term “now” refers to the time of the statute’s enactment, and permits the Secretary to take land into trust for members of recognized tribes that were “under Federal jurisdiction” in 1934. The respondents argue that the word “now” is an ambiguous term that can reasonably be construed to authorize the Secretary to take land into trust for members of tribes that are “under Federal jurisdiction” at the time that the land is accepted into trust.
We agree with petitioners and hold that, for purposes of §479, the phrase “now under Federal jurisdiction” refers to a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction at the time of the statute’s enactment. As a result, §479 limits the Secretary’s authority to taking land into trust for the purpose of providing land to members of a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted in June 1934. Because the record in this case establishes that the Narragansett Tribe was not under federal juris-diction when the IRA was enacted, the Secretary does not have the authority to take the parcel at issue into trust. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals."
Mashpee Wampanaog Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell:
“It’s absurd on its face that the policy of the United States government would be to recognize the sovereignty of native tribes but not allow those sovereign nations to take land into trust,” Cedric Cromwell, the newly elected chairman of the Mashpee tribe, said in a statement. “We look to Congress to correct what the court could not.”
Cromwell is planning to send a letter today asking US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, as well as US Representative William Delahunt, to file legislation to change the law.
Supreme Court Justice Breyer:
who joined the majority opinion, indicated that it is possible that tribes not recognized by the federal government before the 1934 law might still have been under federal jurisdiction "even though the federal government did not believe so at the time." As an example, Breyer said, the government has acknowledged that some tribes were mistakenly left off a list the Interior Department compiled following the law's enactment.
But Breyer said he did not foresee that possibility for the Narragansetts.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:
The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized, but Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion that the law "unambiguously refers to those tribes that were under the federal jurisdiction" when it was enacted.
The National Congress of American Indians discussed the case earlier this year as tribal leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. However, the "Carcieri fix" was left off the final list of priorities for the 111th Congress.
The list of tribes who are affected by the 1934 issue runs in the dozens and includes some of the more financially successful in Indian Country. Many of them, however, may be able to overcome the date limitation by proving they were under federal jurisdiction at the time.
Prof. Clyde Barrows of UMass Dartmouth:
The court ruling suggests the federal government can’t legally place the Middleboro land into a trust, said Clyde Barrow, a UMass-Dartmouth gambling researcher.
“That puts a real smack-down on the Middleboro proposal,” Barrow said.
The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized.
Dennis Whittlesey, Middleboro's Indian-gaming lawyer and all-around vampire:
“The implications are literally coast to coast and border to border,” said Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington-based lawyer who helped negotiate the multimillion-dollar agreement between the Mashpee and the town of Middleborough. “If this decision is not overturned by the Congress, the Mashpee project cannot go forward, there cannot be a casino there."
At issue was whether the land should be subject to state law, including a prohibition on casino gambling, or whether the parcel should be governed by tribal and federal law.
"The Narragansett Indian Tribe is not entitled to special treatment on land that it owns," Charlestown's attorney Joseph Larisa Jr. said in a written statement. He added that the ruling prevents the tribe from creating tax-free smoke shops or an Indian casino unless the citizens vote to approve gambling.
Casino opponents in Middleboro are already heralding the Supreme Court ruling as a death knell to the Wampanoag plans in their town.
On her Gladys Kravitz blog, casino opponent Mary Tufts writes, "Dreams really do come true. Middleboro casino meets the end of the road."