The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals released a more concrete timeline for the case surrounding the Florida gaming compact.
It confirmed what we already knew: This is going to take a while.
Last week, the court released its briefing schedule in the case of West Flagler Associates, LTD. Vs. Debra Haaland, the secretary of the United States Department of the Interior. The June 21 filing also listed the Seminole Tribe as appellants.
A look at the timeline
The Seminole Tribe will submit the first briefing. They must submit the opening brief within 40 days of the proposed briefing format. In other words, they have 40 days from June 21 to submit the outline of their case.
Afterward, the federal government must file their answering brief within 47 days of the Seminoles’ opening brief. Thirdly West Flagler must file an answering brief within three business days of the federal government’s answering brief.
Lastly, the Seminoles get 37 days after West Flagler’s filing to submit an answering brief of their own. Additionally, the proposed briefing schedule allows for the possibility of further delays.
“With regard to schedule, the parties’ proposal contemplates modest extensions of the standard time for filing opening, answering, and reply briefs, which is appropriate in light of the number and complexity of issues on appeal. In so proposing, the parties do not intend to foreclose any party’s right to move this Court for additional time, should unforeseen circumstances so require.”
Assuming there are no delays, and all the briefs take the maximum amount of time to file, it will be 126 days before the court receives all the paperwork. Therefore, the court won’t have all the arguments until at least Oct. 26.
Appellate courts don’t actually retry the case. Furthermore, they typically have multiple judges making a decision on the case.
Just think about how the U.S. Supreme Court hears cases. It’s the highest appellate court in the nation. So this case will undergo a similar process to all cases heard by the Supreme Court.
Sometimes, judges will make a ruling based solely on written briefs. Other times, they will schedule a date for oral arguments. Either way, it makes early 2023 the most likely timeframe for a decision on the case.
Tribe and Department of Interior set to make two different arguments
The DOI and the Seminole Tribe are both listed on the briefing schedule. But technically, the Seminole Tribe isn’t involved in the suit. At least not yet.
The lawsuit is only between the DOI and West Flagler. West Flagler’s original lawsuit was against the federal department because Haaland was the one who approved the compact through inaction.
However, the Seminole Tribe is trying to make the argument that they should be listed as defendants as well. The tribe’s opening brief is solely an attempt to have a previously denied motion overturned.
The District Court denied the tribe’s motion to intervene for the limited purpose of filing a motion to dismiss. The Seminoles argue that per the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 19, they should be allowed to file for a dismissal.
According to the Fordham Law Review, Rule 19 is regarding the required joinder of parties. It ensures that all parties with an interest in the action are joined in the litigation.
Tribe gets no love from the feds on Rule 19
But the federal government doesn’t believe Rule 19 applies in this instance. In fact, the DOI believes the tribe is not a “required and indispensable party within the meaning of Rule 19.”
Instead, the feds are arguing that the District Court erred in deeming the compact unlawful. They are challenging the ruling on its merits and not a procedural technicality.
The feds acknowledged they align with West Flagler on the Rule 19 issue, but the parties are “directly adverse as to all other issues in the case.”
West Flagler was granted more words to make their case
Both the DOI and the Seminole Tribe get 13,000 words for their briefs. But West Flagler Associates gets 19,500 max.
The briefing schedule states West Flagler’s legal team gets the extra 6,500 words because they are responding to two separate briefs at once. Although for some reason, West Flagler only gets three business days to submit their response.
West Flagler is represented by Hamish P.M. Hume, Amy L Neuhardt and Samuel Kaplan of the New York-based Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.
A quick recap of how we got here
- April 2021 – Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe agree to a new gaming compact that would legalize sports betting and expand gaming options at both Seminole-owned casinos and pari-mutuel facilities.
- May 2021 – In a special session, the Florida legislature passes the compact by a 97-17 margin.
- July 2021 – West Flagler Associates, the ownership group of two South Florida pari-mutuels, files a state-level lawsuit over the compact. It argues that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
- August 2021 – The Bureau of Indian Affairs, part of the DOI, gives tacit approval to the compact after Haaland chooses to let the 45-day window expire, effectively legalizing the compact.
- August 2021 – West Flagler Associates files a nearly identical lawsuit at the federal level.
- October 2021 – Judge Allen Winsor dismisses the state-level lawsuit filed by West Flagler.
- November 2021 – The Seminole Tribe launches Hard Rock Sportsbook at the start of the month. It’s the first legal online sportsbook in Florida. Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are legal as well.
- November 2021 – About three weeks after the tribe launches their online sportsbook, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich rules in favor of West Flagler. She says that the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model did indeed violate the IGRA. The appeals process begins shortly after the ruling.
- December 2021 – The Seminole Tribe shuts down its online sportsbook. The move comes after a judge denies a motion to stay. The stay would’ve allowed them to continue operating the sportsbook during the appeals process.