A divided federal court of appeals yesterday vacated a trial court ruling that barred a Long Island-based American Indian tribe from building a casino in Southampton, New York.
In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the dispute between the Shinnecock Indian Nation and New York and the Town of Southampton belonged in state court and not in federal court.
The appeals court vacated an earlier Brooklyn federal district court judge's permanent injunction in 2008 that froze the casino project.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation was federally recognized in 2010. But in 2003, the tribe had begun constructing a 61,000-square-foot casino on a plot of land in Southampton known as Westwoods.
New York State sued in Suffolk County Supreme Court to stop the project, arguing the casino violated state and local laws and claiming that the land was not recognized "Indian lands."
The Shinnecock removed the case to federal court. In 2008, a federal trial judge found that the Nation was not entitled to immunity from the suit and that its title to the Westwoods land had been forfeited hundreds of years ago.
In Monday's ruling, the Second Circuit said the case should have remained in state court.