Although declining to grant a preliminary injunction, a federal judge has set a date to hear a lawsuit filed against a new casino being built in Massachusetts by the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council.
According to a report from The Cape Cod Times, US District Court Judge William Young has scheduled a pre-trial conference for the case, Littlefield v Department Of The Interior, on June 29 with a preliminary hearing on the same day followed by arguments from July 11.
The lawsuit has been filed by a group of local property owners unhappy that the Bureau Of Indian Affairs granted a land-into-trust application made by the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council in September. The move meant that the tribe could begin work on the first phase of its $1 billion First Light Casino development in Taunton, which is a city of some 55,000 residents located about 38 miles south of Boston.
“We’re pleased to have the case heard on the merits on an expedited basis,” David Tennant, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the newspaper.
The plaintiffs are arguing that the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council should not have been given federal status in May of 2007 as it was officially recognized after 1934. Citing a 2009 US Supreme Court ruling known as the Carcieri decision, the applicants contend that the Department Of The Interior overstepped its bounds under the Indian Reorganization Act despite the fact that the tribe was living on a “reservation” at the time this legislation was passed.
Although the tribe is not specifically named in the lawsuit, Cedric Cromwell, Chairman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, told the newspaper that he remains confident that the original decision made by the Bureau Of Indian Affairs will stand.
“The court will proceed to the merits of the case quickly and the government is prepared in defending the record of decision that re-established our tribal lands in Taunton and Mashpee,” Cromwell said.
Construction of the initial First Light Casino stages began in early-April and this facility is scheduled to open next summer offering some 1,900 slots alongside 60 table games. The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, which held a jobs and vendor fair for the development in May, revealed that the entire project when finished is expected to feature up to 3,000 slots and 150 table games as well as a trio of 300-room hotels, a water park and spa, indoor pool, nine retail stores and a 31,000 sq ft multi-purpose function room.