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Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians Wins Again in Challenge to Negative Indian Lands Opinion

11 May 23

Sacramento, CA - On May 8, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman-Jackson once again ordered the Department of the Interior to revisit Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians' request for a favorable Indian Lands Opinion, which was denied by the Trump Administration in 2019.

Last year, on September 30, 2022, Judge Berman-Jackson granted Scotts Valley's motion for summary judgment with respect to whether the Department's unfavorable Indian Lands Opinion was arbitrary and capricious when considered in accordance with the Indian canon of statutory construction. The Department quickly moved for reconsideration under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e).

In a lengthy ruling from the bench, Judge Berman-Jackson upheld her prior decision on the application of the Indian canon of construction to the Indian Lands Opinion and denied the government's motion.

The Peebles Kidder team representing Scotts Valley in this litigation and other related cases includes partners Patrick R. Bergin and Tim Hennessey. Accomplished Indian Law attorney Arlinda Locklear is co-counsel.

Following the Tribe's victory, Patrick Bergin said: "Scotts Valley is very pleased with the outcome. The Tribe was restored to federal recognition thirty two years ago and to this date it does not have a homeland. The ultimate purpose of our litigation was to provide the Tribal community with a reservation where they can live, work, and thrive together."

Scotts Valley is one the very few federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States with no reservation land. The Tribe has long sought to reestablish its homeland on which it can build a tribal community with housing, a unified governmental headquarters, and economic development ventures including a casino-resort. In 2016, Scotts Valley requested that the Department acquire an undeveloped 128-acre parcel of land into trust status and requested an Indian Lands Opinion that the parcel would be eligible for gaming activity should it go into trust status.

The case is Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians v. U.S. Department of the Interior, case number 1:19-cv-01544, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.