United States District Court, District of Columbia
NICOLAS VILLA, JR., Chief, Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California, Plaintiff,
KENNETH LEE SALAZAR, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants
For NICOLAS VILLA, JR., Chief, Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California, Plaintiff: John P. Racin, LEAD ATTORNEY, KLIMASKI & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Washington, DC.
For KENNETH LEE SALAZAR, Secretary of the Interior, DONALD E. LEVERDURE, Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Defendants: Judith Rabinowitz, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, San Francisco, CA.
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.
Under the Administrative Procedure Act, Nicolas Villa, Jr., challenges the decision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to acquire in trust a parcel of land in Amador County, California, for Indian gaming purposes. Chief Villa alleges that Interior should not have acquired the land and should not have recognized the Ione Band of Miwok Indians as a " restored tribe" under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act because that group is unconnected to the tribe led by Chief Villa, called the Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California. Interior moves to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. For the following reasons, transfer will be granted.
A. Background and Procedural History
On June 29, 2012, Chief Villa filed his Complaint against Kenneth Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior (collectively, " Interior" ). See Compl. [Dkt. 1]. Chief Villa avers that he " heads the Tribe known as the Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California that for centuries has inhabited lands in present day Amador County, California." Id. ¶ 8. Chief Villa's allegations concern a " group calling itself the Ione Band of Miwok Indians," which " includes as purported members persons with little or no ancestral or other connection to the historic Tribe headed by [Chief] Villa and his father." Id. ¶ 12.
According to Chief Villa, the Ione Band of Miwok Indians applied to Interior in 2004 for an " opinion as to whether the Plymouth Tracts," a 228-acre parcel of land in Amador County, " would qualify for gaming if [Interior] agreed to acquire the lands in trust for its benefit" under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (" IGRA" ), 25 U.S.C. § § 2701-21. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1, 14-15. In 2006, an Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs determined that the Plymouth Tracts would qualify as " restored lands" under IGRA. Id. ¶ 16. Chief Villa contends that the Ione Band of Miwok Indians has not achieved the formal acknowledgement necessary to qualify as a " restored" tribe under IGRA and its regulations promulgated in 2008. See id. ¶ ¶ 18-24 (citing, inter alia, Gaming on Trust Lands Acquired After October 17, 1988, 73 Fed. Reg. 29,354 (May 20, 2008) (codified at 25 C.F.R. Part 292). Chief Villa asserts that in 2009 Interior " reverse[d] and withdr[ew]" the 2006 Solicitor's opinion, concluding instead that the Ione Band of Miwok Indians is " not a restored tribe." Id. ¶ 26 (internal quotation marks omitted). Notwithstanding this disavowal, Interior approved the acquisition in trust of the Plymouth Tracts in May 2012, relying on the 2006 ruling and determining that " the group purporting to be the Ione Band of Miwok Indians [is] eligible to conduct gaming operations there on the basis of IGRA's restored lands exception." Id. ¶ ¶ 26-27. Chief Villa claims that Interior's 2012 approval was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and asks the Court to enjoin
the acquisition, which has not been consummated.
On January 18, 2013, Interior filed a Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, relying in large part on the fact that two similar cases are pending in that court. See Mot. Transfer [Dkt. 7]. Chief Villa opposed the motion. See Opp. [Dkt. 10]. Interior filed ...