As tension mounts leading up to arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Bay Mills, 63 Indian communities and U.S. Solicitor General Donald. B Verrilli Jr. have filed briefs in support of the Bay Mills Indian Community.
The Bay Mills tribe opened an off-reservation casino near Vanderbilt in November 2010, but closed it in March 2011 after a series of legal challenges, including a lawsuit by the state of Michigan over whether the property can be a casino site. The tribe says since the land was purchased with funds it received from the Michigan Land Claims Settlement Act of 1997, a casino can be built on it without going through the usual process of first having it placed in federal trust.
After nearly three years of legal challenges, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take on the case, on December 2. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said this “sets the stage for an important discussion about the states’ ability to halt the unrestrained expansion of off-reservation tribal casino gambling.” In his first legal brief with the high court, Schuette wrote, “If state sovereignty means anything, it must include the ability to stop illegal conduct on lands under state jurisdiction. Bay Mills is allowed to break the law by opening casinos outside Indian lands; tribes that follow the law will be unfairly disadvantaged by illegal, competing casinos, or even encouraged to engage in the same unlawful behavior.”
In response, a brief filed by the Bay Mills tribe stated, “This is one of the rare cases before this court that is squarely controlled by settled precedent. Michigan sued the Bay Mills Indian Community by name, seeking severe financial penalties and an injunction against the tribe. This court has repeatedly held that ‘an Indian tribe is subject to suit only where Congress has authorized the suit or the tribe has waived its immunity.’ Neither exception applies here: Congress has not abrogated Bay Mills’ immunity, and Bay Mills has not waived it. Michigan therefore cannot sue Bay Mills.”