Forest County Potawatomi Challenge to Denial of Gaming Compact Fails

Here are the materials in Forest County Potawatomi Community v. United States (D.D.C.):

79-1 Forest County Motion for Summary J

81-1 US Cross Motion

82-1 Menominee Cross Motion

86 Forest County Reply

91 US Reply

92 Menominee Reply

95 DCT Order

Prior posts here.

Federal Court Allows Menominee to Intervene in Forest County Challenge to Gaming Compact Rejection

Here is the order in Forest County Potawatomi Community v. United States (D.D.C.):

41 DCT Order Granting Menominee Motion to Intervene

Briefs are here.

Update in Forest County Potawatomi Challenge to Class III Gaming Compact Disapproval

Here are the materials in Forest County Potawatomi Community v. United States (D.D.C.):

19-1 US Motion to Transfer Venue

20 FCPC Opposition

21 Reply

22-1 Menominee Motion to Intervene

27 FCPC Opposition to Menominee Intervention Motion

31 Menominee Reply

33 DCT Order Denying Motion to Transfer

We posted the complaint way back in early 2015.

Forest County Potawatomi Complaint re: Denial of Class III Gaming Compact — And Commentary

The Forest County Potawatomi Community has filed a complaint against the Department of the Interior over the disapproval of its gaming compact – the latest development in the Menominee Tribe’s efforts to develop a class III gaming facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Here are some initial thoughts about the case:

  1. These are very difficult cases to win. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies have broad discretion in making decisions and interpreting statutory law.  The Department’s decision to disapprove the Forest County Potawatomi gaming compact strikes me as consistent with its approach in recent years to limit the scope of these types of agreements.
  2.  The Complaint alleges that the Department’s rejection of the compact “departed from long-established and consistent policies reflected in previous [compact] decisions…” However, the Department of the Interior has always expressed concerns over revenue sharing in gaming compacts.  In the past 15 years, the Department has also warned tribes that gaming compacts are not an appropriate means to restrict the ability of other Indian tribes to engage in gaming under IGRA – including the Forest County Potawatomi Community.  Finally, the Department of the Interior under the Obama Administration has rejected a number of gaming compacts for similar reasons.
  3. The Complaint alleges that “Potawatomi has not received what it bargained for:…the 50-mile non-competition zone.” Later, it asserts that “[Potawatomi] has paid the State over $243 million” for that benefit.  This sounds like Potawatomi intends the new compact to remedy the old compact’s supposed flaws, which is a tough sell considering the fact that the Forest County Potawatomi Community has enjoyed the exclusive right to operate a gaming facility in Milwaukee for more than two decades.  
  4. The Department’s decision to disapprove the Forest County Potawatomi gaming compact was based on its determination that the compact included terms that went far beyond what IGRA allows. The Complaint alleges that determination was wrong, and states, “IGRA expressly provides that a compact may include provisions that take into account the adverse economic impacts on existing gaming activities” and then cites 25 U.S.C. §§ 2710(d)(7)(A)(iii)(I) and 2710 (d)(3)(C)(vii).  Nothing in either of those sections of IGRA “expressly” allows a compact to include terms that mitigate a tribal gaming facility for lost profits.  The Department is going to get a lot of deference on its interpretation of those sections.
  5. The Complaint alleges that the Department had “a ministerial duty to approve the [Potawatomi] Compact amendment” because it was the product of an earlier compact amendment that survived the Department’s review. This is, perhaps, the biggest stretch in the complaint.  A court could see that argument as an effort to allow tribes and states to collude to avoid DOI review of gaming compact amendments.

Gaming compacts have become increasingly more complex, and the Department of the Interior has become much more active in reviewing those agreements.  This will be a difficult case for Forest County Potawatomi to win, as I suspect the Court will defer to the Department’s expertise in this area. All in all, there are lot of interesting questions for the court to consider in this matter.

Here are related documents:

1-1 Exhibit A — Compact Amendment

1-2 Exhibit B — Disapproval Letter

Forest County Potawatomi FOIA Suit against Interior over Menominee Fee to Trust Materials

Here is the complaint in Forest County Potawatomi Community v. Jewell (D. D.C.):

1 Complaint

An excerpt:

For over two years, Plaintiff Forest County Potawatomi Community (the “Community”) has attempted to obtain records from Defendants, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. §552 et seq., related to the Secretary of the Interior’s reconsideration of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin’s (“Menominee’s”) request to acquire land in Kenosha, Wisconsin, into trust for gaming purposes under Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”), 25 U.S.C. §465, and a request for a Secretarial Determination under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”), 25 U.S.C. §2719(b)(1)(A) (the  “Kenosha Casino Application”). The Community sought the information as part of its effort to meaningfully consult with and provide comments to the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (the “Assistant Secretary”) before he made critical decisions on the Kenosha Casino Application. Defendants have improperly withheld the requested records and have repeatedly violated their clear statutory obligations under FOIA. The Community seeks, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that Defendants are in violation of FOIA for improperly withholding records and engaging in a pattern and practice of violating FOIA, a finding that the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) personnel acted arbitrarily and capriciously and in violation of law in withholding records, and an order requiring Defendants to immediately and fully comply with the FOIA requests set forth herein.