En Banc 9th Circuit Will Consider Casino Case

     (CN) – Plans to build an Indian casino on environmentally sensitive land in Northern California will go before an 11-judge appellate panel, the 9th Circuit said.
     The Big Lagoon Rancheria has been fighting with California for more than a decade over the tribe’s plans to build a casino on an 11-acre parcel of land in Humboldt County.
     In a 2009 federal lawsuit, the tribe argued that the state had violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s requirement of good-faith negotiations for any proposed casinos. California countered that the tribe could not build on the property because it had not been granted ownership of the land by the government.
     U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken found that state officials had indeed failed to negotiate with the tribe in good faith, and said that the actual owner of the 11 acres was not relevant to the case.
     The 9th Circuit reversed, 2-1, in January, finding that the owner of the land was relevant to the issue and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had lacked the authority to grant the 11 acres to the tribe in 1999.
     Judge Johnnie Rawlinson argued in dissent that, under federal Indian gaming law, any land held in trust by the government as Indian land is eligible for gaming.
     In a brief order published late Wednesday, Chief Judge Alex Kozinksi said that the dispute will be taken up by an 11-judge, en banc panel. The three-judge panel ruling can no longer be cited as precedent.

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