Big Lagoon Rancheria of California was able to convince an en banc panel of all 11 justices of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that California erred in challenging the status of their land, placed in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in 1994. California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked the court to hear the state’s case for a third time and it was denied on Wednesday.
The AG may have a single option left if she is going to continue the fight and that is to ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. Judges in the case have ruled “both ways” with the latest ruling giving tribes some insulation against challenges to historic placements of land into trust.
In the late 1990’s Big Lagoon Rancheria started construction on a casino on the environmentally fragile site on the Pacific coast. A former governor of the state signed a compact with the tribe authorizing a casino more than 500 miles away in Barstow. In January 2008 the Bush administration quashed the proposed development and the tribe returned to their plans to construct a casino at Big Lagoon.