On May 30th, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in the case of Comanche Nation of Oklahoma v. Ryan Zinke.
Oklahoma City, OK -- (ReleaseWire) -- 06/24/2019 --The underlying dispute in this lawsuit involves the Department of the Interior's decision to approve a casino property in Terral, Oklahoma; in fact, a small town in the southern part of the state that is just miles from the Red River.
Complaint: Interior Department Violated Federal Law
The newly approved casino project is owned and controlled by the Chickasaw Nation. Notably, the competing Comanche Red River Hotel Casino in Devol, OK. And is within an hour of the newly approved property. As a result of the close proximity of the two competing commercial entities, the Comanche raised a complaint arguing that the competition is unfair and that the Interior Department approved the casino in violation of federal law.
Understanding the Oklahoma Exception
The key legal issue in this case is a federal rule that is commonly referred to as the 'Oklahoma exception' (25 U.S. Code § 2719). As explained by the Oklahoma City business litigation attorneys at Brown & Gould, PLLC,"Under federal law, American Indian tribes are generally prevented from opening up casino gaming operations on land that was obtained after October of 1988. However, the relevant statute contains a provision known as the 'the Oklahoma exception'. If land is located in the state of Oklahoma and within the bounds of the tribe's former reservation; the Interior Department has the authority to grant approval for a casino."
Judge: Terral, OK Casino Falls Within the Exception
In the initial 2017 ruling, a U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Oklahoma determined that the proposed Terral, OK casino site; falls within the historical bounds of the Chickasaw's former reservation. As such, the judge ruled that the Oklahoma exception applies to this property and that the Interior Department had the authority to grant approval for the casino. On review, an appeals court affirmed that ruling. Consistent with standard practice; the Supreme Court did not offer specific reasoning as to why it decided not to review the case.
The Commercial Lawsuit Will Likely Be Dismissed
Since the Supreme Court has declined to review this case; the commercial litigation now goes back down to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a preliminary ruling regarding an injunction, the appeals court has already made an unfavorable decision for the Comanche Nation. Most observers expect that this lawsuit will now be dismissed by the Tenth Circuit.