Butte County, California v. Chaudhuri, No. 16-5240 (D.C. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows a federally-recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the tribe’s benefit, 25 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1), 2703(4)(B) if the lands had been taken into trust as of the Act’s effective date of October 17, 1988. The Act permits gaming on lands that are taken into trust after that date “as part of . . . the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition” to ensure “that tribes lacking reservations when [the Act] was enacted are not disadvantaged relative to more established ones.” In 1992, the Mechoopda Tribe regained its federal recognition; 12 years later, the Tribe asked the Secretary to take into trust a 645-acre Chico, California parcel, so that the Tribe could operate a casino, arguing that the parcel qualified as “restored lands.” The Secretary agreed. Butte County, where the parcel is located, sued. The district court and D.C. Circuit upheld the Secretary’s decision, rejecting an argument that the Secretary erred by reopening the administrative record on remand. The court noted the Secretary’s findings concerning the Tribe’s historical connection to the land and whether current Tribe members were descendants of the historical Tribe and concluded that the Secretary’s substantive decision survives arbitrary-and-capricious review.