SCOTUS Declines Petition to Rehear Case Against Jamul Indian Village Casino

It appears that the legal battle between Jamul Indian Village (JIV) and the Jamul Action Committee (JAC) has finally come to an end. After over seven years, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) denied the JAC’s petition to rehear their case opposing the JIV casino that opened in 2016. The Jamul Casino is just one of the Golden State’s many casinos. The JAC has opposed the casino since its construction started in 2014.

JAC has mostly opposed the JIV casino in the courtroom, but they have also organized protests throughout the years. For instance, in 2015 the community group organized a flash mob at the building site in order to protest the casino’s ongoing construction. Despite the best efforts of the JAC, it now appears that the casino will be able to continue to operate unimpeded.

Why JAC is Opposing JIV

The JAC first started opposing the Jamul Casino in 2014 on the grounds that it violated several federal acts. According to the JAC, the casino violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Equal Protection provisions of the US Constitution.

Among their claims, the JAC stated that the JIV did not meet the grounds for tribal immunity because it is not a historically recognized tribe. The JAC also claimed that the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) did not have jurisdiction over the JIV as they are not a federally recognized tribe. The NIGC approved the $400 million Jamul Casino’s construction. If the JAC’s claim were upheld, then the NIGC would not be able to license the JIV Casino’s operations.

The JAC has also referred to the precedent set by the SCOTUS in Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. According to the JAC, the court’s decision that the term “recognized” does not equate to being “federally recognized” would move the JIV out of the NIGC jurisdiction. Commercial casinos are not legal in the state of California. If the JIV does not qualify as a federally recognized tribe then they would not be able to operate.

Case History

The JAC’s opposition to the Jamul Casino has lasted nearly a decade. Other organizations in the community, such as the Jamul Community Church, also joined the JAC in their opposition of the Las Vegas-style casino. When the San Diego casino was still under construction in 2014, the JAC filed an injunction to halt construction. The JAC and its supporters wanted the JIV to comply with the NEPA and prepare an environmental impact statement.

Ultimately, the JAC’s injunctive relief request was denied, and no environmental review took place. The Jamul Casino finished its construction and was opened in 2016.

Despite their NEPA claim being shot down, the JAC continued to bring litigation against the Jamul Casino. Over the years, they continued to pursue their claims the casino violated the IGRA, IRA, and Equal Protection provisions of the US Constitution. The JAC filed a total of three appeals with the US District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The ruling for all three appeals came in September 2020, but it was not what the JAC or others opposing the casino had hoped for. The court ruled that the case against JIV could not be tried as the JIV qualified for tribal immunity.

After their appeals were denied, the JAC filed a petition in April of this year to have the case retried. However, the SCOTUS initially denied the petition in October. The JAC once again tried to have the case brought before the court, but it was announced on December 7th that the SCOTUS will not hear the case.

What This Means Going Forward

The JAC has been persistent in its attempts to hinder Jamul Casino’s operations. Unfortunately for them, they appear to be out of options. With the SCOTUS refusing to rehear the case, there are no other courts they can appeal to.

While the JAC may have been unsuccessful in stopping the JIV, it is not the first time they have tried to oppose a casino. In 2013, the JAC unsuccessfully tried to sue the NIGC and Department of the Interior in an attempt to stop construction on a casino by Penn National.

The Jamul Casino is also not likely to be the last casino to have a run-in with the JAC. According to the mission statement on their website, the JAC aims to preserve and improve Jamul for those who live, work, and recreate there. However, their website also proudly boasts several pieces of anti-casino propaganda while asking for donations toward their sizeable legal fees.

Conclusion

The SCOTUS announced on Tuesday that they will not hear the case against the JIV casino in San Diego. Since 2014, the JAC has been opposing the Jamul Casino through legal action on the grounds that it violates several federal statutes.

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Chief among the JAC’s complaints was that the JIV does not meet requirements for a historically recognized tribe and therefore cannot be licensed by the NICG to operate. The JAC also claimed that the JIV did not meet requirements for tribal immunity in court.

By refusing to reconsider the Committee’s petition, the Court has effectively ended any chance for the JAC to continue to combat the Jamul Casino’s operations. The casino itself has been operating since 2016, despite attempts by the JAC to garner support to have it shut down. Jamul Casino is the second casino that the JAC has attempted to disrupt. Now, the JAC must address their own legal fees before they presumably find another casino to oppose.