Ala. Indian Casino Lawsuit Moves to Federal Court

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's lawsuit against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has been moved to federal court where the tribe has, using Strange's own words against him, asked for it to be dismissed.

Strange in February asked an Elmore County Circuit Court judge to shut down the Poarch Band's three casinos, alleging them to be a public nuisance. The casinos use slot-style, electronic bingo machines that Strange says are illegal in Alabama but may be allowed under the National Indian Gaming Commission, which permits electronic games.

The Poarch Band, though, had the case moved to Federal District Court in Montgomery late last month on the grounds that, among other things, the state's lawsuit is preempted by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Attorneys for the Poarch Band did not immediately return a request for comment.

Read the Poarch Creek Band's motion to dismiss

The state, which declined to comment, could ask the federal court judge to send the case back to state court but had not done so as of this afternoon.

Once the lawsuit was moved to federal court, the Poarch Band asked a judge to dismiss the state's case.
Federal law governs those facilities, and I do not have jurisdiction to enforce either federal or Alabama law against them. -- Luther Strange

In its 12-page motion to dismiss, the Poarch Band argues that the state of Alabama has no grounds to sue the tribe, a sovereign nation. Even if the state did have legal standing to sue a sovereign nation, it could not use a state nuisance claim as a way around the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to the motion.

The tribe attempts to turn Strange's own words against him, citing an October 2012 letter that Strange sent to attorney Joe Espy, urging him to discourage his client, Milton McGregor, from reopening his VictoryLand casino.

In the letter, which the Poarch Band entered as evidence in its motion to dismiss, Strange tells Espy and McGregor that, while he is within his rights to take legal action against them, there's nothing he can do to end Indian gaming on Indian lands.

"Federal law governs those facilities, and I do not have jurisdiction to enforce either federal or Alabama law against them," Strange wrote in his letter.

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