Tribal Casino in Michigan Might be Illegal

Back in 1999, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (thankfully, they are also known as the Gun Lake Tribe–a much easier mouthful to pronounce) were recognized as an Indian tribe. They asked the Secretary of Interior to acquire property to build a casino near Gun Lake in Wayland Township, Michigan.

But there was a thorn in the side of the proposed casino: David Patchak sued claiming that because the Gun Lake Tribe didn’t legally exist in 1934 the land for the casino couldn’t be acquired. A district court in Michigan threw the case out. However, the Federal Circuit reversed, and the case went up to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the Gun Lake Tribe and the US government (the Secretary of the Interior) are wrong, and that the case can go to trial.

This does not mean that Mr. Patchak’s claim will win out and the casino (which is now open) will close tomorrow. Rather, it means that Mr. Patchak’s lawsuit will be heard sometime in the future and depending on the outcome of that lawsuit the casino might be forced to close.

If you are at all interested in Supreme Court decisions, this case is eminently readable. In one week we should learn about the fate of the Affordable Care Act (when the Supreme Court rules on it–aka ObamaCare). This case was decided 8-1 and will likely seem arcane in comparison to that decision.

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