Supreme Court to hear PCI case

Published 2:00pm Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Alabama Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians tax-exemption status after an appeal filed this week that points to the now infamous Cariceri v.Salazar case Escambia County Commissioners have been attempting to flesh out since April.
According to attorney Bryan Taylor, who was hired by the commission as a legal advisor specifically for assistance in the PCI case, Lee County resident Jerry Rape sued PCI and its casino business last year in Montgomery County Circuit Court for refusing to pay him a $1.3 million jackpot he said he won at the tribe’s Creek Casino Montgomery.
A release from Taylor’s office states, “Rape is appealing the ruling of Circuit Judge Eugene Reese, who threw out the case based on the Indian tribe’s argument that the dispute is beyond the jurisdiction of state courts to decide.”
In his lawsuit Rape pointed to the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Cariceri case arguing it means the federal government “did not possess authority to take land into trust for the tribe, and the tribe is not entitled to immunity.”
In their motion to dismiss the case, PCI said Alabama courts have no jurisdiction over the incident because it “occurred on the Tribe’s trust lands, which are held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Tribe.”
In his release, Taylor states, “now it will be up to the Alabama Supreme Court to decide, and from there the case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The Cariceri case has been the focal point of the ongoing dispute between the Escambia County Commission and the PCI over the legality of the tax-exempt status of tribal lands currently held in federal trust.
A recent reply to a commission letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed the tribe’s trust status, but failed, commissioners said, to address their main concern of how the Cariceri case impacts the issue, if at all.
Monday the commission announced they would take a step back from the legal process and extend an invitation to tribal leaders in order to attempt to come to an agreement on the issue. During the same meeting commissioners Raymond Wiggins and David Quarker, whose district includes the area in Atmore housing the PCI Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, said they felt the commission no longer needed to work with Taylor. Both commissioners, joined by Commissioner Brandon Smith who has supported the tribe throughout the course of the dispute, said they felt Taylor’s background as a member of former Gov. Bob Riley’s advisory panel made him a poor fit to aid the county in their quest to clarify the Cariceri decision’s connection to PCI; however a formal vote on the issue was not taken.
In Taylor’s recent release, he continued to address the issue stating, “The Carcieri case has also taken center stage lately in Escambia County, where county commissioners have come under intense criticism by the tribe and some editorial page writers for raising questions about the Carcieri decision’s impact on the tribe’s taxable status. Currently, the tribe claims they are federally exempted from state and local property taxes, sales taxes, tobacco taxes and other fees and taxes. The Escambia County Commission has question whether that tax exemption still stands after the Carcieri ruling, but the county has taken no formal legal action.”
Taylor said “although Rape’s case is unrelated to Escambia County, the legal briefs in the case seem to vindicate the county commissioners. Rape’s attorneys are making strong legal arguments that he believes will be taken very seriously by Alabama Supreme Court justices.”

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