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Pataki to appeal Mohawk case to Supreme Court

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York Governor George Pataki will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a recent ruling by the state Court of Appeals that nullified a 1993 gaming compact between the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and the state. In the interim Gov. Pataki on July 7 also asked the State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, to stay its recent ruling in order to allow for continued state regulatory oversight of gaming on Mohawk territory.

By a 4 - 3 vote, the Court of Appeals on June 12 ruled invalid the 1993 compact negotiated between the Mohawks and former Governor Mario Cuomo because it never received approval from the state legislature. In issuing its ruling, the Court stated that the compact could be retroactively ratified, but the legislature adjourned the following week without taking action.

The tribe's Akwesasne Casino in Hogansburg, N.Y. has remained open and is not expected to shut its doors any time soon.

The case stems from a 1999 lawsuit filed by the Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE), an anti-Indian sovereignty group claiming that its aim is not to close casinos but rather to force compact revisions to include monetary payments to the state. Lawyer Cornelius Murray told the Associated Press that he thought it "highly unlikely" that the Supreme Court would get involved in what he characterized as a dispute over a state governor's powers as defined by a state constitution.

Pataki's action, while certainly welcomed by Indian gaming proponents, is likely the result of a desire to protect the authority of the Governor's office. Indeed few governors would sit idly by during a direct challenge to the parameters of their authority.

A separate UCE lawsuit challenging the legality of New York's compact with the Oneida Nation, also negotiated by former Governor Cuomo, under which gaming at the popular Turning Stone Casino is conducted is working its way through the state court system.

A ruling in another case arguing against the legality of the October 2001 legislative action authorizing six more Indian casinos in New York is also pending.