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Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Brown

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sacramento

September 24, 2014

PICAYUNE RANCHERIA OF CHUKCHANSI INDIANS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., as Governor, etc., et al., Defendants and Respondents NP FRESNO LAND ACQUISITIONS LLC, Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 34201280001326CUWMGDS Michael P. Kenny, Judge.

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COUNSEL

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Carlyle W. Hall, Jr., Andrew Scully Oelz and Amit Kurlekar for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Sara J. Drake, Assistant Attorney General, William P. Torngren and Timothy M. Muscat, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

J. Brent Richardson, City Attorney, for Defendant and Respondent City of Madera.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Randy L. Barrow, and Deborah L. Barnes, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ronald W. Beals, Jeanne Scherer, David H. McCray, and Brandon S. Walker, for Defendant and Respondent California Department of Transportation.

Douglas W. Nelson, County Counsel, and Robert D. Gabriele, Assistant County Counsel, for Defendant and Respondent County of Madera.

Cox, Castle & Nicholson, Andrew B. Sabey and Linda C. Klein for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

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OPINION

ROBIE, J.

Is the Governor of California a “public agency” subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Pub. Resources Code, [1] § 21000 et seq.)? In this case, which involves the Governor’s concurrence in a federal determination under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.) that a new Indian gaming establishment in Madera County would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, we conclude the answer is “no.” Accordingly, as we will explain, the trial court did not err in sustaining the demurrers here and we therefore affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

For our purposes, the relevant facts -- which are drawn from the allegations in the first amended petition for writ of mandate and complaint -- may be stated as follows:

Plaintiff Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians (the Picayune Tribe) owns and operates a resort and casino on its rancheria lands in Madera County. In 2005, another tribe -- the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians (the North Fork Tribe) -- submitted a request to the United States Department of the Interior asking the department to acquire approximately 305 acres of land in Madera County adjacent to State Route 99 so the North Fork Tribe could develop its own resort and casino there. (See 25 U.S.C. § 465 [authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land “for the purpose of providing land for Indians”].) The land on which the North Fork Tribe wants to build its casino is approximately 40 miles away from the North Fork Tribe’s rancheria lands and approximately 30 miles away from the Picayune Tribe’s casino.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, casino gaming on lands acquired for a tribe by the Secretary of the Interior after October 17, 1988, is generally prohibited, subject to certain exceptions. (See 25 U.S.C. § 2719(a).) One of those exceptions is if “the Secretary, after consultation with the Indian tribe and appropriate State and local officials, including officials of other nearby Indian tribes, determines that a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, but only if the ...


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