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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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One Tribe Can’t Stop Another Tribe’s Casino

SACRAMENTO (CN) — A California appellate court ruled that Gov. Jerry Brown legally authorized taking into trust 40 acres of Yuba County land for a tribe that wants to build a casino, despite a rival tribe's objections.

The Third District Court of Appeal on Thursday found no merit to a lawsuit from the United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria, which challenged the approval of the Maidu tribe's casino, which is under construction about 20 miles from the United Auburns' Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

The Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians broke ground on its 140,000-square-foot Fire Mountain Resort and Casino in April. The tribe, based in Oroville in Butte County, chose the site due to Butte County's saturated casino market. In applying to place the land in federal trust for gaming, the Maidu cited their historical occupation of an area that includes modern-day Butte and Yuba counties.

The Secretary of the Interior determined in 2011, and Gov. Brown concurred in 2012, that the land was eligible for an off-reservation casino and would not be detrimental to the surroundings.

United Auburn appealed, saying the governor's concurrence with the federal government's assessment was invalid because the power to concur belonged to the Legislature, which had not delegated that power to the governor.

But last week the appeals court disagreed, finding that Brown's concurrence did not violate the separation of powers.

"The governor's power to concur has the characteristics of an executive, rather than a legislative act, thus the governor's power does not depend on legislative delegation," Judge Coleman Blease wrote for the three-judge panel.

Blease found that Brown's concurrence "did not create California's tax, land use, or gaming policy. Instead, the governor was informed by these policies when he made his decision."

By concurring, Brown was "merely implementing the gaming policy already legislatively formulated, and this is an executive function."

The appeals court also rejected United Auburn's argument that Brown exceeded his authority because he negotiated the compact with the Enterprise Tribe before the land became Indian land.

"The governor did not negotiate a compact for the conduct of gaming on non-Indian land. The gaming would occur, and could only occur, if the land became Indian land. Thus, the gaming would be conducted on Indian land, just as the state constitution provides," Blease wrote.

He added that the constitution "does not specify when the negotiations may occur, only that whatever gaming is permitted must be conducted on Indian lands. The timing of the negotiations did not exceed the governor's power."

The California Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

United Auburn Indian Community spokesman Douglas Elmets said, "We are currently reviewing the ruling and no decision has been made regarding an appeal."

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