DC Circuit reverses land-into-trust decision for Mechoopda Tribe
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today said the Interior Department was wrong to place land into trust for the Mechoopda Tribe of California.

In a split decision, the court said the department failed to consider objections to the tribe's application that were raised by Butte County. At issue is a letter that the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent in response to a county report that questioned the tribe's legitimacy.

According to the D.C. Circuit, the response violated the county's rights under the Administrative Procedure Act. "The [Interior] Secretary simply refused to give the County an audience," Judge Arthur Raymond Randolph wrote for the majority.

The court set aside the department's May 2008 decision to place land into trust for the tribe. But the Obama administration will be able to reconsider the application and make another determination that addresses the county's concerns.

Judge Judith Rogers dissented. She said the county's attempt to question the tribe's legitimacy and its connections to the land had already been resolved by the government.

"The Secretary’s response to the County is consistent with our precedent that an agency need not restart its analysis whenever a new report is submitted," Rogerswrote.

D.C. Circuit Decision:
Butte County v. Hogen (July 13, 2010)

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