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Casino Lawsuit Takes Small Step Forward

Last Monday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by US District Court Judge William Skretny preventing the Seneca Nation of Indians from becoming a party in a lawsuit that seeks to put an end to casino gambling in downtown Buffalo.

The Second Circuit ruled that the Nation could not join as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County against the federal government without also waiving its sovereign immunity from federal court jurisdiction—something the Senecas will not do. The lawsuit is the third by CACGEC challenging the federal government’s permitting of the Senecas to run a casino in downtown Buffalo, on the grounds that the Seneca-owned land on which the casino sits is not eligible to host gambling under federal law. In both the previous suits, Skretny has ruled against the federal government and for the CACGEC, only to have the federal government employ a new tact to justify the permitting of the Buffalo Creek Casino and thus prompt a new suit. The current lawsuit was prompted by an about-face in policy made by the US Department of the Interior the day before Barack Obama was inaugurated president—a classic “midnight ruling” during the transition between presidential administrations.

Skretny ruled, and the Second Circuit affirmed, that the Seneca Nation of Indians could continue to engage in the lawsuit as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, providing the judge with information and opinions. Now this third lawsuit—in which the arguments on both sides remain essentially the same as in the two previous suits—can move forward.

geoff kelly

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