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Judge Rules HUD Cannot Release $3 Million to Chukchansi

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development will continue to withhold $3 million in funding from the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians of California for housing, rental and ownership assistance and building repairs, reported the

A federal judge has ruled the agency does not have to release the money to the Chukchansi Indian Housing Authority until the Department of the Interior's Board of Indian Appeals determines the rightful leadership of the Chukchansi tribe.

For nearly two years, the tribal government has been divided into two factions now led by Nancy Ayala and Reggie Lewis. Ayala's faction went to court to obtain the money, but the presiding judge said he could not determine the tribe's internal affairs.

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"Federal courts lack jurisdiction to decide intra-tribal disputes," Judge David Campbell wrote in the December 30, 2013, decision.

"It's unfortunate that a federal judge believed he didn't have the jurisdiction to rule in this case," David Leibowitz, spokesman for the Ayala faction, told the "The agency's decision to withhold federal housing funds from our tribe is hurting our people, including seniors and children."