Friday, July 29, 2016

Judge in Taunton casino case: 'This is not a close call'

In a major blow to Taunton casino supporters, a U.S. District Court judge Thursday ruled that the federal government overstepped its authority when it took land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. “[Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell] lacked the authority to acquire land in trust for the Mashpees,” Judge William G. Young wrote in his 22-page ruling siding with a group of East Taunton residents opposed to construction of the tribal casino in their neighborhood. At issue in the case, the judge said, is whether the Mashpees legally qualify as “Indians” as defined by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. If not, the Bureau of Indian Affairs would lack the authority to take land into trust on their behalf, according to the judge’s ruling. The judge said the “plain meaning” of the law is that the Mashpees would have had to have been recognized by the federal government at the time the law was enacted in 1934 for the Bureau to have the authority to take land into trust on their behalf. The tribe was officially recognized in 2007 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “With respect, this is not a close call: to find ambiguity here would be to find it everywhere,” Young wrote in his ruling. The tribe broke ground on the Taunton casino in April...more

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