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California Valley Miwok Tribe v. California Gambling Control Commission

April 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA VALLEY MIWOK TRIBE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIFORNIA GAMBLING CONTROL COMMISSION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Roger T. Benitez United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

[Doc. # 4]

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, California Valley Miwok Tribe ("Plaintiff" or "Miwok") brought this action against the Defendant, California Gambling Control Commission ("Defendant"). Plaintiff claims that Defendant failed to pay Plaintiff its share from the Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund ("RSTF"). Defendant removed the case from state court. Defendant now moves for a change of venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that it is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Stockton, California. (Compl. ¶ 1). Defendant supervises gambling establishments in the State of California and serves as the Trustee and Administrator of certain funds in the State Treasury, including the RSTF. (Compl. ¶ 2). Defendant's office is located in Sacramento, California.

In September 1999, the State of California entered into a Tribal State Gambling Compact ("Compact") with various Indian tribes located in the state ("the Compact tribes"). (Compl. ¶ 5, Ex. 1). The Compact tribes contribute a percentage of their gambling proceeds to the RSTF. (Compl. ¶ 5).

Plaintiff claims that under the Compact, as a non-Compact tribe with no casinos or gambling operations, Plaintiff qualifies to receive up to $1.1 million from the RSTF annually. (Compl. ¶ 6). The Miwok tribe was placed on the list of federally recognized tribes in 1994 and in 1998 the tribe established a tribal council. (Compl. ¶ 8). On June 25, 1999, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") recognized Silva Burley ("Burley") as the tribal chairperson. Id.

Plaintiff alleges a leadership dispute developed within the Miwok tribe in late 1999, but the BIA still recognized Burley as the chairperson of the tribe in July 2000. (Compl. ¶ 9). However, in October 2001, the BIA declined to approve the tribe's new constitution, asked the tribe to identify more of its members, and recognized Miwok as an "unorganized Tribe." (Compl. ¶¶ 9-14). BIA continues to recognize the tribe as "unorganized" because the Miwok tribe has not identified other putative members of the tribe in the tribe's constitution. (Compl. ¶ 14). In addition, due to the internal disputes, the BIA now recognizes Burley only as a "person of authority," rather than as a tribal chairperson. Id.

In March 2005, BIA met with Plaintiff in an effort to resolve the leadership disputes. However, in August 2005, Defendant advised Miwok that the distributions from the RSTF would be withheld until the Miwok leadership was formally established. (Compl. ¶ 15). Plaintiff claims Defendant's decision was a result of the ongoing leadership dispute and the BIA's designation of Miwok as an "unorganized tribe." Id. Plaintiff continues to request the distributions from the RSTF and Defendant has refused to make any further distributions. (Compl. ¶ 16).

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that under Cal. Gov. Code § 12012.75, Defendant has a mandatory duty to distribute funds from the RSTF to Plaintiff. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that under Section 4.3.2.1(b) of the Compact, Defendant has no discretion in deciding whether a non-Compact tribe is entitled to a distribution. (Compl. ¶ 18). The Complaint alleged five causes of action for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff sought an order restraining Defendant from withholding the distributions and directing Defendant to pay Plaintiff the money due, a declaratory judgment regarding Plaintiff's rights and Defendant's obligations to Plaintiff, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Defendant removed the case to federal court on January 22, 2008. Since removal, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed without prejudice its third cause of action for breach of contract and fourth cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty. [Doc. # 6].

On January 31, 2008, Defendant filed this motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern ...


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