Judge won't issue injunction in Pojoaque Pueblo compact dispute

The Buffalo Thunder Resort in New Mexico. Photo from Facebook / Cornell & Company / Mike Wilson

A federal judge refused to stop the Obama administration from moving forward with Class III gaming procedures for Pojoaque Pueblo in New Mexico.

Judge James A. Parker acknowledged the state will be affected if the Bureau of Indian Affairs issues the procedures for the tribe. But he said stopping the process at this point runs counter to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"This court appreciates New Mexico’s great interest in protecting its rights under IGRA and vindicating its interests in regulating Class III gaming within its territory. But New Mexico’s argument is misplaced," Parker wrote in the 25-page decision. "Congress put an intricate remedial structure in place to balance competing state, tribal, and federal interests."

"New Mexico has used its immunity from suit to prevent the Pueblo and other tribes similarly situated from obtaining a court determination of New Mexico’s adherence to its obligations under IGRA," Parker continued. "New Mexico is within its rights to challenge the [Class III] Secretarial Procedures in order to ensure compact negotiations with the state remain the sole avenue for tribes to conduct Class III gaming. But because New Mexico’s tactics run contrary to Congress’s announced purpose in passing IGRA, this court finds that a preliminary injunction would not serve the public interest."

Parker, however, agreed to expedite the case. He ordered briefing to be completed by October 14 so a final decision on the main issue -- whether the BIA can issue the procedures -- could come by the end of the year.

IGRA authorizes the federal government to step in when a state refuses to negotiate a Class III gaming compact and raises a sovereign immunity defense in federal court. Both conditions were met for Pojoaque Pueblo.

The state, however, contends the IGRA provision is illegal. In 2007, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reached that conclusion in a case involving a tribe in Texas.

New Mexico falls under the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Pojoaque Pueblo case makes it there, it could raise the issue to a national level again since the Bush administration declined to appeal the Texas case.

Get the Story:
Judge: Pueblo, feds can negotiate gambling pact (The Albuquerque Journal 9/12)
Judge denies injunction over tribal gambling deal (The Santa Fe New Mexican 9/12)

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New Mexico sues to stop Class III decision for Pojoaque Pueblo (08/08)

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