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Franks Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

March 15, 2017

FRANK'S LANDING INDIAN COMMUNITY, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment of Plaintiff Frank's Landing Indian Community (the “Community”). Dkt. 33. Also before the Court is the cross-motion for summary judgment of the United States Department of the Interior (the “Department”), Sally Jewell, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the Interior (the “Secretary”), and Lawrence S. Roberts, [1] in his official capacity as Assistant Secretary of the Interior Indian Affairs (“Roberts”) (collectively “Defendants”). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and, for the reasons explained below, hereby (1) denies the Community's motion and (2) grants Defendants' motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 13, 2015, the “Community filed its complaint against the National Indian Gaming Commission; Jonodev Chaudhuri, in his official capacity as Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (the “Commission”); the Department; the Secretary; and Roberts. Dkt. 1. The Community seeks injunctive and declaratory relief that it qualifies as an Indian tribe under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, 25 U.S.C. 2701 et. seq. (“IGRA”).

         On May 12, 2016, the Commission and the Chairman moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 19. On August 15, 2016, the Court granted the Commission and the Chairman's motion to dismiss. Dkt. 29. In granting the motion, the Court explained that “the Community's dispute regarding qualification under the IGRA as an ‘Indian tribe' is with the Secretary and not with the NIGC or the Chairman.” Id. at 9.

         On November 4, 2016, the Community moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 33. On January 13, 2017, Defendants responded with their cross-motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 38. On February 10, 2017, the Community replied. Dkt. 39. On March 1, 2017, Defendants replied. Dkt. 40.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Relevant Statutes and Regulations

         “Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 in order to provide a statutory basis for the operation and regulation of gaming by Indian tribes.” Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 48 (1996) (citing 25 U.S.C. § 2702). The IGRA established the NIGC within the Department of the Interior to oversee and regulate tribal gaming under the IGRA, see 25 U.S.C. §§ 2702(3), 2704(a), 2706(b), and to take enforcement actions for violations of the statute. Id. § 2713. The NIGC is made up of a Chairman and two Commissioners, each of whom serves on a full-time basis for a three-year term.

         Under the IGRA, “[a]n Indian tribe may engage in, or license and regulate, class II gaming on Indian lands within such tribe's jurisdiction, if - the governing body of the Indian tribe adopts an ordinance or resolution which is approved by the Chairman.” 25 U.S.C. § 2710(b)(1). The IGRA defines “Indian tribe” as:

(5) . . . any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians which-
(A) is recognized as eligible by the Secretary for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians, and
(B) is recognized as possessing powers of self-government.
* * *
(10) The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Interior.

25 U.S.C. § 2703. Similarly, under the federal regulations promulgated by the Secretary for administration of the IGRA:

         Indian tribe means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians that the Secretary recognizes as-

(a) Eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians; and
(b) Having powers of self-government.

25 C.F.R. § 502.13.

         In 1994, Congress enacted the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act (the “List Act”), Pub. L. No. 103-454 (1994) (codified at 25 U.S.C. §§ 5130, 5131), which provides that:

         For the purposes of this title:

(1) The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Interior.
(2) The term “Indian tribe” means any Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian tribe.

25 U.S.C. § 5130 (formerly § 479a). The List Act also requires the Secretary to publish and maintain a list of recognized “Indian tribes, ” stating:

(a) Publication of list The Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register a list of all Indian tribes which the Secretary recognizes to be eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.
(b) Frequency of publication The list shall be published within 60 days of November 2, 1994, and annually on or before every ...

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