Getting Testy In DC Version Of Florida Sports Betting Litigation

Posted on October 21, 2021
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Written By on October 21, 2021

Tell me if you have heard this one before: West Flagler Associates oppose the intervention of the Seminole Tribe in their Florida sports betting lawsuit against the Secretary and Department of the Interior.

It should sound familiar because the same plaintiffs opposed the intervention of the Seminole Tribe in their Florida-based litigation. West Flagler Associates has taken a similar stance in their D.C. lawsuit and their federal suit in the Northern District of Florida opposes the addition of parties that they have not named as defendants.

The opposition is expected, as West Flagler Associates want to control just who they are facing off with in court.

A two-part argument on Florida sports betting

The motion from West Flagler Associates makes two arguments related to FL sports betting. The first argues that the Seminole Tribe of Florida should not be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and the Department of the Interior.

The second argument is only necessary if the Tribe is granted its requested intervention, and that is that the Tribe’s pending motion to dismiss the lawsuit should be denied.

The first argument

The West Flagler plaintiffs argue that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is not entitled to intervene under rule 24 (A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 24 (A) states:

Intervention of Right. On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who:

(1) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or

(2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant’s ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

The plaintiffs argue that the Tribe does not demonstrate that they have a “legally protected interest in the action”; and the action “threaten[s] to impair that interest.”

No sovereign immunity?

West Flagler Associates’ opposition notes that there is no partial intervention under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure where a party remains otherwise separated from the court’s authority.

The plaintiffs cite a 1986 case (predating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) that held “normal intervention is a waiver of sovereign immunity to the court’s jurisdiction in the case.”

A lack of interest?

The plaintiffs then argue that the Seminole Tribe of Florida lacks an identifiable interest in the case against the Department of the Interior. The basis for this argument is that the plaintiffs argue that sovereign immunity in and of itself cannot be the basis for the intervention. The second argument in this realm argues that the Tribe’s intervention is “frivolous,” stating:

It is frivolous to assert that a wager placed by a person who is not on Indian lands can be “deemed” by the State and the Tribe to have occurred on Indian lands. The State and the Tribe have no power to change the definition of Indian lands or to change the fact that gaming occurs both where a bet is placed and where it is received. Thus, the Tribe’s asserted “legally protectable interest” is in fact not legally protectable, but instead is frivolous and contrary to law.

Your interests are already represented

The final component to the West Flagler Associates’ argument is that the Seminole Tribe does not need to intervene because the Department of the Interior and the Secretary share sufficient overlapping of interests that the Tribe is effectively already represented.

In addition, the plaintiffs point to some case law that suggests that an action challenging the approval of a Compact is different regarding indispensable parties than a contract case that might otherwise necessitate a party like the Seminole Tribe.

But if you don’t like that argument, please do not dismiss our lawsuit

West Flagler Associates argues that if the Seminole Tribe is granted the right intervene, the D.C. District Court should not grant the Tribe’s accompanying motion to dismiss the case under Rule 19(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 19 (a) requires the Court to join certain parties, assuming it is feasible. Failing to join an indispensable party gives rise to the ability for the defendants to raise Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(2), which provides for dismissal of the lawsuit if the necessary parties are not joined via Rule 12(b)(7).

The lawsuit could continue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b), but that would require finding that the lawsuit should continue out of fairness to the properly named parties.

What is next in Florida sports betting?

Things are heating up in Florida and D.C. as we get closer to the Florida sports betting launch date.

While it would seem on the surface like an obvious claim that the Seminole Tribe is a necessary party to challenging a Compact that they are a part of, the case law on the issue is less obvious.

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John Holden

John Holden J.D. / Ph.D. is an academic. His research focuses on policy issues surrounding sports corruption.

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