Thursday, June 19, 2008

Barona Band v. Yee (9th Cir. - June 18, 2008)

Kudos to Judge Wardlaw. For writing an opinion that not only makes sense on the merits (though I admit that I totally see the other side as well), but also contains a funny line with the perfect level of subtlety. Not too much, but definitely not too little.

The case involves whether the Barona Band of Mission Indians, who have a big casino down here in San Diego (and nice golf course too, I might add), can immunize non-Indian contractors from paying California sales tax on purchases of construction materials from non-Indian vendors through a particular complex (but elegant) arrangement designed to do just that. The Barona Band convinces the district judge (Judge Sabraw) that this scheme succeeds, but Judge Wardlaw holds that it doesn't. Sorry.

The relevant funny line -- which really did make me both smile and let out a little chuckle -- comes fairly early on in the opinion. Here's the setup, which is the second paragraph of the opinion:

"After nearly two centuries of displacement of the Barona Band of Mission Indians by European and then American encroachment, the United States enacted legislation to provide a tract of land in rural San Diego County to serve as a reservation for the Tribe. Until the early 1990s, however, the Tribe suffered from deep structural economic difficulties. Following the nationwide trend of Native Americans seeking to infuse economic life into depressed reservations, the Tribe opened up a casino in 1996: the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino — 'Where The Real Players Play, and Win.'"

Then comes the punch line, which is first sentence of the third paragraph:

"By 2001, enough of these real players had played and lost for the Tribe to plan a $75 million expansion to the casino floor and hotel, replete with a new wedding chapel, parking structure and other resort amenities."

I admit that I don't fully know why I loved that line so much. But I did.