Litigation | Openings & Closings

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sees hope in casino land litigation

Demolition work on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's casino in Massachusetts began in spring 2016. Photo from Facebook

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains hopeful after a federal judge issued a clarification in a gaming lawsuit.

Chairman Cedric Cromwell said the tribe will demonstrate, once again, that it can follow the land-into-trust process. That would clear the way for resumption of construction on the First Light Resort and Casino.

"The bottom line is the United States has an opportunity here to further address our request to have our land held in trust, and we expect any setback caused by the court’s initial decision on July 28, will be temporary,” Cromwell said in a statement on Thursday.

Last September, the Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that the tribe qualified for the land-into-trust process because its members were living on a "reservation" that existed in 1934. The decision appears to be the first of its kind.

But Judge William Young on July 28 ruled that the decision was faulty. He said the BIA failed to fully consider the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The decision restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The Mashpees didn't gain formal recognition until 2007.

The Obama administration sought a reconsideration but Young denied the request in an order entered into the record on Thursday. However he clarified that the BIA has another chance at addressing Carcieri in reviewing the tribe's land-into-trust application.

The tribe has been granted a role in the lawsuit.

Read More on the Story:
Judge narrows his Taunton casino ruling (The Taunton Daily Gazette 10/13)
Judge offers new route for Mashpee Wampanoag land (The Cape Cod Times 10/13)
Stalled Taunton casino plan leaves gaming panel frustrated (The Boston Globe 10/13)

Court Decisions:
District Court of Massachusetts: Littlefield v. Department of the Interior (July 28, 2016)
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon v. Jewell (July 29, 2016)

Supreme Court Decision in Carcieri v. Salazar:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Department of the Interior Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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