City of Roseville v. Norton

Decision Date11 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. Civ. A 02-0628(EGS).,Civ. A 02-0628(EGS).
PartiesCITY OF ROSEVILLE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Gale A. NORTON, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

William P. Horn, Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs, Citizens for Safer Communities, City of Rocklin and Roseville.

J. Scott Smith, Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff, Sacramento, CA, for Plaintiffs, Citizens for Safer Communities, City of Rocklin and City of Roseville appearing pro hac vice.

Steven E. Miskinis, Esquire United States Department of Justice, Environment

& Natural Resources Division, Indian Resources Section, Washington, DC, for Defendants, USA, Dept. of Interior, Gale Norton, Neal McCaleb and Ronald M. Jaeger.

Seth P. Waxman, Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, Washington, DC, for Intervenor, The Auburn United Indian Community.


SULLIVAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs are two California municipalities, the City of Roseville and the City of Rocklin, and an association of citizens from these cities and the neighboring City of Lincoln. Plaintiffs oppose the Secretary of Interior's decision to take a 50-acre parcel of land into trust for the intervenor, the United Auburn Indian Community ("UAIC" or "Tribe"). The Tribe intends to build a 200,000 square foot gaming casino on the parcel, which is located in Placer County, California.

Plaintiffs sue the Secretary of Interior ("Secretary"), the Assistant Secretary of Interior, the Director of the Pacific Region of the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") and the United States. They raise numerous claims against the defendants, many of which suggest that the Secretary's decision to take land into trust for the UAIC unconstitutionally infringes on the sovereignty of the State of California. Yet, in essence, this case arises from the complicated process of restoring sovereignty to the Auburn Indians. In recent years, Congress has restored numerous Indian Tribes to federal recognition and, in doing so, has provided for the restoration of lands to these tribes. Thus, the difficult question posed by this case is not one focused on the limits of state sovereignty, but one stemming from the task of defining the scope of this Congressionally mandated restoration of lands to the Auburn Indians.

Pending before the Court are motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by the United States and the Tribe, and plaintiffs' cross motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief. However, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2), and with the consent of the parties, the Court combined consideration of the motion for preliminary injunctive relief with proceedings on the merits.

The Court grants defendants' and intervenor's motions to dismiss all of plaintiffs' claims, with the exception of that claim arising under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. § 4332 et seq. ("NEPA"). The Court considers plaintiffs' NEPA claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and enters summary judgment for the United States and the Tribe, and against plaintiffs, on this claim.

A. The Auburn Indians

In the early 1900s, the United States government acknowledged the existence of a small Indian village located on the outskirts of the City of Auburn, California. The Auburn Band of Indians, at that point, constituted a small community of California Indians who survived the depredations of the 19th century. See S.Rep. No. 103-340 (1994). The Band resided outside the City of Auburn, about forty miles northeast of Sacramento. Id. The Band's members were drawn from Indian Tribes whose aboriginal territories reached both north and south of Auburn. Id.

In 1917, the United States took approximately twenty acres of land into trust for the Auburn Band, and, in 1953, it took another twenty acres in trust for the Tribe. These forty acres became known as the Auburn Indian Rancheria. Id.

In the 1950s and 1960s, federal trust responsibilities for 41 "rancherias" were terminated. Id. The Auburn Rancheria was terminated on August 11, 1967, pursuant to the terms of the Rancheria Act of 1958. Id. The Rancheria's assets were distributed among its residents and its lands allotted to them. Id.

In July 1991, descendants of the Rancheria's residents formed an organization called United Auburn Indian Community of California (hereinafter "UAIC"). Id. After unsuccessfully applying for formal recognition with the BIA, the group was recognized by Congress pursuant to the Auburn Indian Restoration Act in 1994. See 25 U.S.C. § 1300l(a)-(b). The Act restored rights and privileges of the Tribe and its members, and extended to the UAIC and its members the status of a recognized Indian Tribe. Id. The Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to consult with the Tribe in order to "establish[] a plan for economic development for the Tribe." Id. § 1300l-1(a)(1). The Act also permits the Secretary to accept certain real property in trust for the benefit of the Tribe. Id. § 1300l-2.

Ninety percent of the Tribe's 247 members live within ten miles of the old Rancheria, and some fifty members still live on individual fee lands within the Rancheria's boundaries. Decl. of Jessica Tavares in Support of Tribe's Mot. to Intervene, ¶ 4. Jessica Tavares, the Chairperson of the UAIC, recounts conditions of "grinding poverty," in which many of the Tribe's members live. Id.; see also S.Rep. No. 103-240.

B. Proposal to Develop Gaming Facility

In 1997, the UAIC entered into a "collaborative process" with Placer County to locate and develop a site that would be appropriate for Class III gaming. A.R. 1869 (letter from Placer County to the BIA) (May 16, 2000). After considering various alternatives, the parties settled on a 49.21-acre parcel in an unincorporated portion of the County called the Sunset Industrial Area. A.R. 332(EA). This parcel is currently vacant and is zoned as "Industrial Park-Design Corridor." Id. The parcel is bounded on three sides by the cities of Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln, suburbs of Sacramento, California. The parcel is approximately forty miles away from the boundaries of the former Auburn Rancheria.

The Tribe proposed to develop a 200,000 square foot gaming and entertainment facility on the parcel. The facility would include a bingo area, a casino floor with video gaming and card tables, restaurants, bars, an entertainment lounge, and 3,500 on-site parking spaces. A.R. 323. The facility is expected to draw 8,000 visitors a day and to employ approximately 1,100 people. Id.

In October 1999, the Tribe entered into a gaming compact with the State of California. A.R. 680-740. The compact permits the Tribe to conduct Class III gaming and requires the Tribe to contribute to the State Revenue Sharing Trust Fund, which assists "non-Compact" Indian Tribes, addresses gambling addiction, and supports state and local agencies affected by tribal gaming. Id.1

The Tribe's negotiations with Placer County culminated in a January 18, 2000 Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), in which the County agreed to support the Tribe's application to the Secretary of Interior. The Tribe agreed, among other things, to work within the general and community plans, zoning ordinances and design guidelines that would have applied to a private development, to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, to reimburse the County for use of public services, and to pay traffic mitigation and improvement fees. A.R. 820-44. A California Superior Court vacated this MOU pending compliance with environmental review procedures under the California Environmental Quality Act. A.R. 200053-63. However, the court subsequently commented that the defect was "technical," and that the MOU was likely the "best environmental alternative." Diamond Creek Partners, Ltd. v. City of Lincoln, No. SCV 10659, Order Denying Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Cal.Super.Ct. Mar. 11, 2002).

C. Trust Application

On June 25, 1998, the Tribe filed its initial application asking the Secretary to take the parcel into trust so that it could proceed with its plans to develop a casino. The mechanism for seeking approval from the Secretary of Interior is known as a "fee-to-trust" application. Here, the Secretary seeks to take the parcel into trust pursuant to the Auburn Indian Restoration Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1300l et seq. However, the Secretary processed the Tribe's fee-to-trust application pursuant to procedures established under the generally applicable provisions of the Indian Restoration Act, 25 U.S.C. § 461 et seq. See 25 C.F.R. § 151. The Tribe amended its application on October 6, 1999, and on February 22, 2000. A.R. 778.

Beginning in 1999, the Tribe, with the assistance of Environmental Sciences Associates ("ESA"), prepared an Environmental Assessment ("EA") of the fee-to-trust application. See A.R. 321-561. The EA states that the BIA "worked closely with the UAIC and ESA for approximately one year in defining the Proposed Actions, the site conditions and evaluating the potential effects" of the project. A.R. 571(EA). In addition, Mr. David Zweig of ESA attests that the preparation of the EA took more than three years, and involved seven drafts. Intervenor's Opp'n to Mot. for Prelim.Inj., Ex. 2 ¶ 3 (Zweig decl.). He states that he worked closely with individuals from the BIA, including William Allan, the Pacific Region Environmental Protection Specialist for the BIA. Id. ¶ 4. The EA for the proposed casino project was released in June 2000, and 25 comments were received in response to it. The BIA published and, together with the UAIC, responded to public comments. See A.R. 4564-93.

The BIA adopted the EA prepared by the Tribe and, on June 21, 2000, circulated it to interested parties for comment. In response to concerns raised by various parties, including plaintiffs,...

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