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Cayuga Nation lawsuit against Seneca County may head to Supreme Court — again

Seneca County’s efforts to foreclosure on tax delinquent properties owned by the Cayuga Indian Nation that are not part of a recognized reservation, initiated in 2013, was heading to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

But the Harris Beach law firm, which represented the county at the time, failed to file required paperwork by the strictly-enforced deadline. That paperwork had to be filed on time to allow the nation’s highest court to consider hearing an appeal.

That sent the matter back to the lowest level of the federal court system. The hope was that it would progress through the district court, the circuit court and then, with the county having hired the Bond, Schoeneck & King law firm, appealed to the Supreme Court in a timely manner.

In an update to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, attorney Brian Laudadio said the case was back before District Court Judge Charles Siragusa of Rochester. He said Siragusa, who ruled against the county in the original lawsuit, granted a motion from the Cayugas for a summary judgement.

Laudadio said Siragusa also denied a motion for summary judgement that he filed on behalf of the county.

“The judge said we made compelling arguments, but his bottom line was that the law that guided his initial decision in 2014 has not changed,” Laudadio said.

Siragusa ruled that the law prohibits an Indian tribe from being sued in federal court under “sovereign immunity.”

One compelling argument that Laudadio told the Supervisors might work in their favor is a case from the state of Washington. He said a court ruling there precluded a tribe from using sovereign immunity from prosecution in certain cases involved parcels of land.

“Judge Siragusa said that is a good argument, but the law hasn’t changed. We have filed an appeal notice with the Second Circuit Court. Briefs are due with that court by April 15 and we should argue that matter in September,” Laudadio said.

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