Supreme Court takes up petition in Kialegee Tribal Town dispute

Artist's rendering of what was to be the Red Clay Casino on an Indian allotment in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Image from Kialegee Tribal Town

The briefs are in and the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take action in a gaming dispute between the Kialegee Tribal Town and the state of Oklahoma.

The battle began in 2012 when the tribe announced plans for a gaming facility on an Indian allotment near Tulsa. A federal judge halted construction so the Red Clay Casino never got off the ground.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, though, reversed. In a unanimous decision that was finalized in December 2014, a three-judge panel held that tribe and its leaders are protected by sovereign immunity.

But even through the tribe has dropped plans for the facility, the state is asking the high court to overturn the decision. The last brief was filed on July 24 and the petition in Oklahoma v. Hobia is due for consideration at a closed-door conference on September 28, according to Docket Sheet No. 14-1177.

The justices could agree to hear the case or reject it. Or they could ask the Department of Justice for its views, a move common in Indian law cases. Their action will be announced after they return to work for their next term, which starts in October.

The case is similar to Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, another tribal immunity dispute. In May 2014, the high court held that Michigan could not sue the Bay Mills Indian Community for opening a casino that was not located on "Indian lands" as that term is defined by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The National Indian Gaming Commission has twice determined that the allotment where the Red Clay Casino was to be located does not meet IGRA's definition of "Indian lands."

10th Circuit Decision:
Oklahoma v. Hobia (December 22, 2014)

NIGC Indian Land Opinions:
May 25, 2012 | June 8, 2012

Supreme Court Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (May 27, 2014)

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