The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has appealed a decision that blocks its right to intervene in a federal lawsuit concerning the state’s casino law.
The appeal challenges a decision issued on June 6 by U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton, which said requests by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), the town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah Gay Head Community Association could not insert themselves in a case involving a private developer, Gov. Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
In the original lawsuit, private developer K.G. Urban Enterprises of New York argues that a provision in the 2011 gaming act that sets aside one of three state casino licenses for federally recognized Indian tribes is unconstitutional.
Judge Gorton ruled that because the Aquinnah tribe was not involved in active negotiations for a license, the tribe’s interests in the case were too remote to be involved.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe was also denied a motion to intervene in the case. The state entered into a compact agreement for a casino in Taunton with the Mashpee tribe last year.
The appeal was filed on June 28 to the first U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the tribe’s attorneys, Scott Crowell of Crowell Law Offices and Tribal Advocacy Group in Sedona, Ariz., and John Duffy of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C.
The legal challenge marks the latest move in the Aquinnah tribe’s attempts to operate a gaming facility in Massachusetts, after it was denied negotiating opportunities with the state. The state maintains that the tribe waived its rights to gaming on tribal lands when it signed a settlement agreement with the town in 1985. But the tribe has contended that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supersedes state law, and therefore the tribe has a right to build a casino.
Chairman of the tribe Cheryl Andrews-Maltais could not be reached for comment.