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Judge rules in Oneida Nation's favor as lawsuit over Hobart permit request continues

The Oneida Nation holds its Big Apple Fest Sept. 20, 2014. (WLUK file image)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) - A federal judge has ruled in the Oneida Nation’s favor in a procedural ruling as part of a lawsuit filed by the against the Village of Hobart regarding the tribe’s Big Apple Fest.

After the tribe’s 2016 Big Apple Fest, the village issued the tribe a citation for not having a special events permit.

The village maintains the tribe needed to have a permit for an event with more than 50 people. The tribe disagrees, arguing the village does not have such authority. The case ended up in federal court.

As part of the suit, the tribe asked the court to rule it is not subject to the special events ordinance.

In the seven-page ruling, Judge William Griesbach did not dismiss the case, but says the village is wrong in its argument that it has the power to enforce is ordinance within its boundaries on land that is not held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Nation. As a result, Hobart must “show that the Nation’s Reservation has been diminished by Congress.”

“But again, in light of the previous discussion, it is clear that all of the events occurred within Indian country, absent proof by the Village that the Nation’s Reservation has been diminished. The entire Village is in Indian country as that term has been defined by Congress and the Supreme Court, and thus all of the activities the Village seeks to regulate occurred in Indian country absent proof of diminishment,” Griesbach wrote.

Moving forward, the judge gave instructions to both Hobart and the Oneidas on what burdens of proof each side has, and each side will be presenting reports from their experts.

No trial date has been set.

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