D.C. Federal Court Rejects Sault Tribe’s Third Effort to Force Interior to Acquire Land for Off-Rez Gaming

Here is the order in Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Haaland (D.D.C.):

Briefs here.

Parties Renew Motions for Summary Judgment in Sault Tribe Bid for Detroit-Area Casino

Here are the new materials in Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Haaland (formerly Bernhardt, Zinke, etc.) (D.D.C.):

Time to rumble.

103 Federal Reply

104 Tribes Reply

This case is on remand from the D.C. Circuit.

Sault Tribe En Banc Petition in Trust Land Acquisition Case

Here is the petition in Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Haaland:

Panel stage materials here.

Saint Mary’s [i.e. Sault Sainte Marie] Canal celebration, reviewing stand and Indian village

Split D.C. Circuit Rules against Sault Tribe in Mandatory Trust Acquisition Appeal [“shall” does not mean “shall”]

Here is the opinion in Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Haaland.

Briefs here.

For commentary on legal analysis by reading the dictionary, see Joseph Kimball’s work on the Michigan Supreme Court’s use of dictionaries.

National Archives

Split Sixth Circuit Vacates Conviction and Sentence of D.V. Perpetrator of Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Citizens

Here are the materials in United States v. Johnson:

CA6 Opinion

Opening Brief

US Brief



The University of Michigan federal appellate clinic represented the appellant.

Texas Federal Court Confirms $9M+ Default Judgment against Former Wall Street Broker Who Hoodwinked Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe

Here are materials in Purshe Kaplan Sterling Inc. v. Vungarala (N.D. Tex.):

1 Complaint

1-1 Exhibits

16 Magistrate Order

19 DCT Order

Here is the 2020 SEC opinion related to the matter:

SEC Opinion


In November 2008, Vungarala began working as an in-house investment manager for a sovereign Native American Tribe (the “Tribe”). The Tribe operates a resort and several casinos.

. . .

Vungarala was responsible for managing, evaluating, and monitoring the Tribe’s investment portfolio. He worked in the Tribe’s Treasury Department and reported to Angela Osterman, who was appointed the Tribe’s Treasury Administrator less than a month before Vungarala was hired. Osterman did not analyze or select investments or read prospectuses. She focused on managing the Tribe’s budget, authorizing leave for department employees, and ensuring that policies and procedures were followed. Her prior investment experience was limited to her personal retirement account. The Treasury Department also had two research analysts with little investment experience and no professional certifications. Vungarala gave the research analysts assignments and taught them how to put information together for presentations to the Investment Committee. Osterman and the research analysts did little independent research and viewed Vungarala as the expert on investments.

. . .

At some point, Vungarala learned that the Tribe’s previous outside financial adviser earned more than $1 million a year. In comparison, Vungarala believed his salary amounted to him working “pro bono.” Vungarala also believed that the Tribe treated him poorly because he was not a tribal member, and felt that his office was too small and that his colleagues treated him as an underling.

. . .

Vungarala first presented non-traded REITs and BDCs to the Investment Committee in June 2011. Meeting minutes read into the record reflect that Osterman told the committee that, because Schwab did not offer non-traded REITs and BDCs, the Tribe could “utilize PKS, Gopi’s brokerage firm.” Osterman said that “the Tribe will not have to sign any agreements with them, PKS has agreed to allow the Tribe to use them with no strings attached.” She added that “[t]here will be no conflict of interest on Gopi’s behalf since he is not getting paid by with [sic] the company.” Although Vungarala was present, he did not correct Osterman’s statements.

. . .

After the Investment Committee approved a recommendation from Vungarala, the recommendation went to the Legal Department for review. Although the Legal Department did not raise any concerns about fees, the Legal Department opposed each investment based upon its concern that purchasing REITs and BDCs would jeopardize the Tribe’s sovereign immunity by subjecting it to arbitration in connection with any dispute. Notwithstanding the Legal Department’s opposition, over the three-and-a-half years that Vungarala recommended that the Tribe invest in non-traded REITS and BDCs, the Tribal Council rejected only two out of more than 200 recommendations. 

From 2011 through 2014, the portion of the Tribe’s portfolio devoted to non-traded REITs and BDCs increased from 0% to almost 23%—amounting to nearly $200 million. The REIT and BDC statements that PKS generated did not itemize commissions. Vungarala received $9,682,629 in commissions from PKS as a result of the sales of non-traded REITs and BDCs to the Tribe.

Saginaw Chippewa Disenrollees Win Small Victory against Interior

Here are the materials in Cavazos v. Haaland (D.D.C.):

18-2 Saginaw Chippewa Motion to Intervene

21 Cavazos Motion for Summary Judgment

26 Saginaw Chippewa Cross Motion for Summary

29 Federal Cross Motion for Summary

34 Cavazos Reply

38 Saginaw Chippewa Reply

39 Federal Reply

40-1 Cavazos Proposed Surreply

48 DCT Order

An excerpt:

This administrative law case centers on a U.S. Department of the Interior’s (“Interior”) decision (“AS-IA Decision”), after an informal adjudication, to decline to intervene in tribal disenrollment proceedings by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan (“Tribe”). Plaintiffs are former members of the Tribe who have since been disenrolled by Tribal leadership. Plaintiffs charge that a federal statute particular to the Tribe, the Judgment Funds Act, PL 99-346, 100 Stat. 674 (1986) (“JFA”), required Interior to intervene in and put a stop to Tribal disenrollment proceedings. In their only claim before the Court, Plaintiffs argue that Interior’s inaction was arbitrary and/or capricious within the meaning of the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 500 et seq. (“APA”). As a remedy, Plaintiffs seek not just a remand back to the agency, but an order from this Court mandating Interior’s intervention to reverse the Tribe’s disenrollment proceedings.
In support thereof, Plaintiffs focus primarily on statutory provisions in the JFA governing (1) antidiscrimination against tribal members enrolled after the JFA’s enactment and (2) Interior’s supervision of the JFA. Ultimately, the Court agrees with Interior that the plain meaning of the JFA: (1) does not  classify disenrollment as discrimination and (2) grants Interior broad discretion to intervene in Tribal disputes related to the JFA. However, the Court holds that Interior incorrectly read the JFA to bar  discrimination only against enrolled members of the Tribe. Because the JFA also bars the Tribe from discriminating against disenrolled members in access to benefits and services funded by the JFA, the Court shall remand the matter to Interior to reconsider whether it should exercise its discretionary authority to intervene in the alleged inequitable provision of such benefits and services. 

Prior post here.

D.C. Circuit Briefs in Sault Tribe Mandatory Trust Land Acquisition Dispute

Here are the briefs (so far) in Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Bernhardt:

US Opening Brief

Nottawaseppi Huron Band Potawatomi + Saginaw Chippewa Brief

Detroit Casinos Brief

Sault Tribe Brief

Law Prof Amicus Brief

Detroit Casinos Reply

Joint Tribal Reply

US Reply

Lower court materials here.

Saginaw Chippewa Disenrollees Bring New Suit against Interior

Here is the complaint in Cavazos v. Bernhardt (D.D.C.):

1 Complaint

An earlier suit was dismissed for failure to exhaust.

Federal Court Holds Prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 117 for Indian Country D.V. Does Not Require Indian Victim or Perpetrator

Here are the materials in United States v. Unzueta (E.D. Mich.):

18 Magistrate Report

24 US Response

29 Defendant Response

30 DCT Order