May 26, 2020

Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Gun Lake Band's Trust Land

Challenges to the Gun Lake Band's trust land, pursued by Michigan resident David Patchak since 2008, are finally at an end. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court to affirm the constitutionality of the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act passed by Congress in 2014.

The decades-long dispute began when Patchak argued that the Gun Lake Tribe's placement of purchased land into trust and subsequent construction of a casino were illegal because the Tribe was not federally recognized when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed in 1934. His suit was dismissed, but the decision was appealed to a higher court. Then Congress stepped in.

Congress acted to remove the district court’s jurisdictional authority over Patchak’s then-pending case with the passage of the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act. The D.C. District court dismissed Patchak's case, finding that the Act had validly and constitutionally stripped the Court of jurisdiction. Once again, Patchak appealed.

While there was dissent among the judges, ultimately the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision, ending any chance of future appeals in this matter.

We congratulate the Tribe on this significant win and its affirmation of tribal rights.

© 2020 Varnum LLP


About this Author

Fred L. Schubkegel, corporate attorney, Varnum

Fred provides general legal counsel to private business interests and nonprofit organizations. He has over 30 years of experience assisting for-profit and nonprofit companies with advice, strategies and services related to startup, growth, development and exit, including entity formation and governance, financing, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, executive compensation, asset protection and business succession planning.

Fred has extensive knowledge in real estate and economic development with a particular knack for packaging incentives and credits to make the...