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Amador County v. Jewell

United States District Court, D. Columbia

June 4, 2013

SALLY JEWELL, et al., Defendants

          For Amador County, California, Plaintiff: Dennis Jeffrey Whittlesey, LEAD ATTORNEY, DICKINSON WRIGHT PLLC, Washington, DC USA; Scott Raymond Knapp, PRO HAC VICE, DICKINSON WRIGHT P.L.L.C., Lansing, MI USA.

         For United States Department of The Interior, Defendant: Judith Rabinowitz, LEAD ATTORNEY, San Francisco, CA USA.

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         Plaintiff Amador County, California (" the County" ) brings claims against the United States Department of the Interior (" DOI" ), DOI Secretary Sally Jewell, and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn[1] (collectively, " the Secretary" ), challenging under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (" IGRA" ), 25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., the Secretary's approval of an amendment to a gaming compact between the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians (the " Tribe" [2] ) and the State of California. The Tribe now seeks to intervene for the limited purpose of moving to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. Amador County opposes intervention, arguing that the motion to intervene is untimely and that the United States adequately represents the Tribe's interests. Because the Tribe was aware of its asserted impairment-of-interests as early as 2005, the motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The D.C. Circuit opinion reversing and remanding this matter for further proceedings describes the facts relevant here. See Amador Cnty., Cal. v. Salazar, 640 F.3d 373, 375-77, 395 U.S.App.D.C. 110 (D.C. Cir. 2011). The IGRA, which " created a [tripartite] regulatory framework for tribal gaming" conducted on " Indian lands," classifies most casino games and slot machines as " Class III" gaming. Id. at 376-77; see also 25 U.S.C. § § 2702, 2703. Relevant here, the IGRA provides that Class III gaming " must be conducted in conformance with a tribal-state compact that has been approved by the Secretary." Amador Cnty., 640 F.3d at 376 (citing 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(1)(C)). The Secretary may disapprove a tribal-state compact " only if it violates IGRA or other federal law or trust obligations," id. at 377 (citing 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(B)), and a compact is " deemed automatically approved" to the extent it complies with IGRA if the Secretary fails to act on it within forty-five days, id. (citing 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(C)).

         The Secretary approved a Class III gaming compact between the Tribe and the State

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of California on May 15, 2000. See First Am. Compl. (Dkt. #30) ¶ 17. A few years later, the Tribe and the State negotiated a new compact, which " expanded the scope of [the Tribe's] Class III gaming" but " geographically limited [it] to the Buena Vista Rancheria" --the tract of land the Tribe occupies in Amador County. Id. ¶ 18. " When the Tribe submitted the compact amendment to the Secretary, he chose to do nothing, meaning that [under IGRA] subsection (d)(8)(C) the amendment was deemed approved after forty-five days." Amador Cnty., 640 F.3d at 377. The Secretary subsequently published a notice of approval. Id.

         The County filed this action in 2005, challenging the Secretary's approval of the amended compact on the ground that the Rancheria does not qualify as " Indian land" under the IGRA. See generally Compl. (Dkt #1). In August of that year, after Defendants moved for dismissal under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), the Tribe sought leave to file an amicus brief addressing the failure to join indispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. See Tribe's Mot. for Leave to File an Amicus Br. (Dkt. #18) at 2; Tribe's Proposed Amicus Br. (Dkt. #18-2) at 16-17. The Tribe argued that the parties' failure to join it " and the State of California, as the parties to the gaming Compact and Amendment thereto . . ., serv[ed] as a separate and additional ground for dismiss[al]." Tribe's Mot. for Leave to File an Amicus Br. at 2. The Tribe added that " [t]he presence of the United States in this case does not fully protect the Tribe's interests . . . [because] the United States does not face the same . . . harm as does the Tribe if [the County] is granted the relief it requests." Tribe's Proposed Amicus Br. at 13. The County opposed the Tribe's motion, arguing in relevant part that the United States could adequately represent the Tribe's interests because " no conflict [of interest] exists between the United States and the [Tribe]." Pls.' Opp. to Tribe's Mot. for Leave to File an Amicus Br. (Dkt. #19) at 4 (quoting Ramah Navajo School Board, Inc. v. Babbitt, 87 F.3d 1338, 1351, 318 U.S.App.D.C. 329 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). Judge Richard W. Roberts ultimately denied the Tribe's motion for leave to file the brief.

         The case then proceeded without the Tribe. The County filed an amended complaint in 2008, and Judge Roberts granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in 2009. See Amador Cnty. v. Kempthorne, 592 F.Supp.2d 101 (D.D.C. 2009). In May 2011, the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded for consideration of the merits. See Amador Cnty., 640 F.3d 373. In November 2011, the Tribe brought this motion seeking leave to intervene for the limited purpose of filing a motion to dismiss for failure to join the Tribe and State of California as required parties under Rule 19. See Tribe's Mot. to Interv. (Dkt. #59) at 1. Echoing several of the arguments set forth in its proposed amicus brief, the Tribe states that it " has an obvious interest in . . . defending the validity of its Compact Amendment," in protecting its gaming rights and revenues under the IGRA, and in the status of the Rancheria as " Indian lands." Id. at 8. The Tribe also seeks to protect and assert " its sovereign immunity from suit and its sovereign right to govern and develop the Rancheria." Id. at 7.

         The County opposes intervention as untimely, emphasizing that " the Tribe had knowledge of the instant litigation from the outset" but did not seek to intervene during the " six and a half years" since the original complaint was filed on April 1, 2005.[3] Pl.'s Opp. (Dkt. #61) at 2, 7. The County adds that " [n]o change has occurred . . . with respect to the Tribe's interests in this case or the United States' representation of the Tribe's position such that the Tribe's lengthy delay would be now warranted." Id. at 7. Accordingly, the County counsels against further delaying a case which " is ...

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