Supreme Court: Congress properly ended Michigan casino suit

February 27, 2018

The United States Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Congress acted within its authority when it ended a lawsuit that began over a Native American tribe’s Michigan casino.

The Supreme Court said that Congress acted lawfully when it passed legislation that resulted in the lawsuit's dismissal.

The case was making its second appearance before the justices. Michigan resident David Patchak sued in 2008 after the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians got the go-ahead to build a casino on land near his property in Wayland.

The first time the case was before the Supreme Court, Patchak was able to continue his lawsuit. But Congress soon passed a law that got the lawsuit dismissed. Patchak argued that Congress had improperly directed the result in his case.

Patchak’s lawyer, Scott E. Gant, had argued that Congress went too far when it passed the law, violating the separation-of-powers principle in the Constitution. Gant said Congress was improperly directing the result in Patchak’s case.

But six justices disagreed with Gant and said Congress had acted properly. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the law Congress passed was “a valid exercise of Congress’ legislative power” and “does not infringe on the judicial power.” Three justices led by Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

The casino in Wayland built by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, is one of 26 in Michigan. The casino has more than 2,000 slot machines and 50 tables for games including craps, roulette and blackjack. In 2016, the tribe paid more than $17 million to the state and local governments as a result of its casino operation.

The case is Patchak v. Zinke, 16-498.


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