By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
A federal magistrate supports the Cayuga Indian Nation’s desire to intervene in the recent settlement between the state, Oneida Indian Nation, and Oneida and Madison counties.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles said in his decision released Sept. 11 that the Cayugas should be added to the lawsuit that challenges Oneida Nation trust land in Oneida and Madison counties.
A federal judge will rule on Peebles’ recommendation that the Cayugas be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit for the limited purpose of objecting to the settlement, which has ties to the lawsuit. The Cayugas want to use the lawsuit as a vehicle to object to the agreement reached in May that would end many long-standing differences between the Oneidas and the state and Oneida and Madison counties.
The Cayugas say the deal would prevent them from getting their own casino in Cayuga County. Under that settlement, the Oneidas would pay 25 percent of their gaming machine revenue in exchange for a casino monopoly in a 10-county region, including Cayuga. The Oneidas operate Turning Stone Resort Casino in the Town of Verona. The Cayugas contend that offering another tribe such exclusivity in their reservation is illegal.
As part of the broad settlement, the trust land challenge by the state and Oneida and Madison counties would be dismissed.
If U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn agrees with Peebles, the state and Oneida and Madison counties will jointly present the settlement agreement to the court for approval, and the Cayugas will then have an opportunity to state their objections, said Oneida County Attorney Gregory J. Amoroso. The court will then decide whether to approve the settlement.
Arguments for and against the Cayugas’ intervention were heard Aug. 9 by Peebles. The state contended that the Cayugas did not have standing in the case.
In 2008, the federal Department of Interior had approved placing about 13,000 acres in Oneida and Madison counties in trust for the Oneidas. This decision attracted numerous challenges. The appeals brought by private groups are not covered by the settlement and can continue, but without the involvement of the state and Oneida and Madison counties if the settlement takes effect.
Meanwhile, there have been developments in a second challenge to the settlement, this one brought by the towns of Vernon and Verona. The state and county defendants filed a notice of removal from state court Sept. 9, based on federal subject matter jurisdiction. Amoroso said the case has been assigned to Kahn, the U.S. district court judge who has presided over a number of cases involving the Oneidas.
The date for the defendants to answer or make a motion to dismiss in federal court is now Friday. If the towns are going to try to have some or all of the case sent back to state court, they would make their motion by the same day, reports the county official.
When the state, Oneidas and Oneida and Madison counties negotiated the settlement, it was hoped it would take effect Jan. 1. Approval is still needed from the Interior Department and the federal court.