Seneca Nation wins major victory in the Second Circuit

On September 15, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rendered a decisive victory for the United States and the Seneca Nation (represented by the Firm) in long-running litigation brought by anti-Tribal sovereignty groups over the legality of the Nation’s Buffalo Creek Casino.  The Circuit ruled on two issues.  First, it held that the Nation’s restricted fee lands qualify as Indian country over which the Nation properly exercises governmental jurisdiction because those lands have been set aside for the Nation’s use by the federal government.  The Circuit rejected arguments that the lack of formal designation of lands as reservation or trust lands automatically disqualifies them from Indian country status.  As such, this holding will have important implications for Tribes with various forms of landholding around the country.  Second, the Circuit held that the general prohibition found in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on gaming on lands acquired “in trust” after the effective date of the Act must be construed pursuant to its plain language, and hence does not apply to restricted fee lands that are not held in trust by the United States.   In a statement released after the decision and widely reported upon in the press, Seneca President Maurice John Sr. declared that “[t]he Seneca Nation will never tire in the battle to protect its sovereign rights and to exercise those rights for the benefit of its people and all those around us.”