California asks Supreme Court to hear Pauma Band compact case

The Casino Pauma in Pauma Valley, California. Photo from Facebook

The state of California is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a $36.2 million Class III gaming compact dispute with the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians.

A 1999 compact authorized the tribe to offer up to 2,000 slot machines at the Casino Pauma. But the state refused to allow the tribe to reach that limit so a new agreement was reached in 2004 that included a higher revenue sharing rate in exchange for more machines.

The state, however, kept key information from the tribe during compact negotiations, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined by a 2-1 vote last October. There were in fact enough machines to go around, Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote, yet the tribe still wasn't able to add more to its facility.

"Since this misrepresentation induced Pauma to enter into the much more expensive 2004 amendment, the tribe is entitled to rescission of the amendment and restitution for the $36.2 million in overpayments made to the state," Tallman wrote for the majority.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Oral Arguments in Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission v. State of California

The state is now hoping to overturn that decision. A petition filed with the high court on Thursday warns that other tribes could seek refunds for alleged overpayments based on a compact provision that opens the state to lawsuits.

"While this record does not contain information about aggregate payments to the state under the terms of gaming compacts, the state can represent that tribes have collectively paid more than two billion dollars into California’s general fund," Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for U.S. Senate wrote in the petition. "The Ninth Circuit’s decision could allow other tribes to attempt to seek monetary restitution from California."

The tribe will be able to file a reply to the petition and the state will then get to file a response. After those briefs are filed, the justices will determine whether to accept the case, a process that could take months to complete amid concerns about the vacancy on the court.

Turtle Talk has posted the petition in the case, California v. Pauma Band of Luiseño Mission Indians, and other documents from the 9th Circuit.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission v. State of California (October 26, 2015)

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