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Amador County v. United States Department of Interior

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

December 2, 2014

AMADOR COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, APPELLEE, BUENA VISTA RANCHERIA OF THE ME-WUK INDIANS, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued October 9, 2014

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:05-cv-00658).

Padraic I. McCoy argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs was Carrell C. Doyle. Mark C. Tilden entered an appearance.

Dennis J. Whittlesey argued the cause and filed the brief for appellee.

Before: KAVANAUGH, Circuit Judge, and SENTELLE and RANDOLPH, Senior Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 902

Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge :

In 2005, Amador County, California brought suit against the Department of Interior challenging the Secretary's approval of a gaming compact between the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians (the " Tribe" ) and the State of California. After nearly six-and-a-half years of litigation, the Tribe sought to intervene for the limited purpose of moving to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. The district court denied the motion as untimely, and this appeal followed. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe that occupies a 67-acre parcel of land located entirely within Amador County, California. See Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, 79 Fed. Reg. 4,748, 4,749 (Jan. 29, 2014). In 1999, the Tribe negotiated a gaming compact with the State of California under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (" IGRA" ), and submitted the compact to the Secretary of the Interior for approval. Under the IGRA, once the Tribe submits a gaming compact to the Secretary, the Secretary can either approve the compact; disapprove the compact, if it violates certain federal laws; or do nothing. If the Secretary does nothing, the compact is deemed approved after forty-five days. 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8). In 2000, the Secretary approved the compact. Notice of Approved Tribal-State Compacts, 65 Fed. Reg. 31,189, 31,189 (May 16, 2000). In 2004, the Tribe submitted an amended gaming compact to the Secretary. This time, the Secretary took no action on the amended compact for forty-five days, at which point the compact was deemed approved by operation of law. See 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(C).

In April 2005, Amador County challenged the Secretary's " no-action" approval of the amended compact, arguing that the Tribe's land fails to qualify as " Indian lands" --a statutory requirement for gaming under the IGRA. See id. at § 2710(d)(1). On July 22, 2005, Interior filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the County's claims were not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2). Shortly thereafter, the Tribe sought leave to participate in the case as amicus curiae. The Tribe argued that the suit had to be dismissed under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the Tribe was an indispensable party to the litigation, and the Tribe is protected by sovereign immunity so that the litigation could not proceed. The Tribe also claimed that Interior did not adequately represent the Tribe's interests. The district court denied the Tribe's motion without explanation.

In 2008, while Interior's motion to dismiss was still pending, Amador County filed an amended complaint, and Interior again moved to dismiss. The district court granted Interior's motion, finding that the Secretary's " no action" approval was " unreviewable," as the decision to approve a

Page 903

gaming compact is committed to agency discretion. Amador County, Cal. v. Kempthorne, 592 F.Supp.2d 101, 106-07 (D.D.C. 2009). Amador County appealed to this court. We reversed. See Amador County, Cal. v. Salazar, ...


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