Gun Lake Tribe Prevails in Michigan Casino Lawsuit

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CBS local in Detroit recently ran a story covering an ongoing lawsuit between Michigan resident David Patchak and the Gun Lake Tribe. It was reported by Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press that the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the matter had ruled in favor of the Michigan casino.

Also known as Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, Gun Lake Tribe Casinos was granted permission to build a Michigan casino in 2008. Patchak took issue with the proposed proximity to his land, so he sued to reverse this decision. He sited increased traffic, added pollution and a change in character in the surrounding area as his top concerns. The case on file was Patchak vs. Zinke, 16-498 according to Ms. Gresko’s article on CBS local Detroit.

Things escalated all the way to the US Supreme Court for the second time. An initial ruling by the land’s highest court paved the way for his lawsuit to continue. However, Congress intervened into the whole matter by passing a law that eventually got this lawsuit dismissed. Patchak did not stop there by arguing that Congress had ‘improperly determined the result in his case’ according to the Associated Press report. It also stated that ‘Patchak’s lawyer Scott E. Grant had argued that Congress went too far when it passed the law, violating the separation-of-powers principle in the Constitution’.

When the whole matter went back to the Supreme Court for the second time, Gresko explained that six justices disagreed with Gant and believed that Congress had acted accordingly with the provisions concerning the law it passed. Justice Clarence Thomas went onto to state in a direct quote that the law that Congress did pass was “a valid exercise of Congress ‘legislative power’. He added that it “does not infringe on the judicial power.” There were three justices that dissented on this decision led by Chief Justice John Roberts. There are currently over two dozen casinos in the state of Michigan and Gun Lake Tribe has been operating a casino for years in Wayland, Michigan. The Wayland casino offers over 2000 real money slot machines and 50 gambling tables for craps, roulette and blackjack. Cited in the Associated Press report is the $17 million that the tribe paid to state and local governments in 2016 as a result of its casino operation.

In an official response on the matter from Gun Lake Tribe Chairman Scott Sprague following the Supreme Court’s recent decision, he stated that it “ends a decades-long struggle and ensures the Tribe can carry on our Elder’s vision for growth and self-sufficiency.” Nobody would want a casino in their backyard, but it is amazing just how far this particular issue got dragged through the legal system. The simple fact that this case went all the way to the Supreme Court twice is one thing. The fact that Congress intervened on behalf of the Gun Lake Tribe through an actual law is amazing in of itself. There is something to be said about perseverance when it comes to both parties in this case.

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