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Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Gun Lake Band's Trust Land

March 1, 2018
American Indian Law Advisory

Michigan trail in the fallChallenges to the Gun Lake Band's trust land, pursued by Michigan resident David Patchak since 2008, are finally at an end. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court to affirm the constitutionality of the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act passed by Congress in 2014.

The decades-long dispute began when Patchak argued that the Gun Lake Tribe's placement of purchased land into trust and subsequent construction of a casino were illegal because the Tribe was not federally recognized when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed in 1934. His suit was dismissed, but the decision was appealed to a higher court. Then Congress stepped in.

Congress acted to remove the district court’s jurisdictional authority over Patchak’s then-pending case with the passage of the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act. The D.C. District court dismissed Patchak's case, finding that the Act had validly and constitutionally stripped the Court of jurisdiction. Once again, Patchak appealed.

While there was dissent among the judges, ultimately the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision, ending any chance of future appeals in this matter.

We congratulate the Tribe on this significant win and its affirmation of tribal rights.

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