WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge rejected a challenge Wednesday to casino preparations that one tribe hammered out in the waning hours of the Obama administration.
Landless for nearly 60 years, according to the ruling, the Wilton Rancheria Tribe applied in 2013 to have 282 acres in Galt, California, set aside by the United States for it to build a casino.
Shortly before the November 2016 presidential elections, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs published a notice indicating that the land in Galt was now being overlooked for a 36-acre site in Elk Grove, 12 miles north.
Two residents of Elk Grove reacted with a federal complaint, joined by the nonprofit Stand Up for California. Though the challengers had hoped to slow down the project, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden noted Monday that the department instead “shifted into warp speed,” by federal bureaucratic standards.
Regulators issued their approval of the Wilton Rancheria’s application on Jan. 19, 2017 — the eve of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Among other factors, the challengers objected to the rank of the government official who signed off on the application.
Judge McFadden sided with the government Wednesday in a 27-page grant of summary judgment, however, saying “there are very few duties that cannot be delegated to an ‘acting’ officeholder, the second-in-command, or even another official who acts in the place of the principal pursuant to agency regulations or orders.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs with Washington-based Perkins Coie did not return an email seeking comment on the ruling.
Representatives for the Department of Justice and the Wilton Rancheria tribe, which was represented in the case by the firm Hogan Lovells, also did not return requests for comment.