CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) _ After barring the Shinnecock Indian Nation from building a casino on disputed land in the Hamptons, a federal judge has rebuffed a local government's request to impose further limits on the tribe's activities there.
The Shinnecocks had said Southampton Town's proposal could prevent tribal ceremonies and even the gathering of firewood on the Hampton Bays site, although the town disputed those claims.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco said Friday that the court should not become "the ultimate zoning board" in the dispute.
Bianco nixed the tribe's casino plan in October, saying documents proved the tribe's aboriginal title to the parcel had extinguished in the 17th century.
He also noted that the Shinnecocks are not federally recognized as a sovereign tribe, and the parcel is not federally recognized as Indian land. To operate a casino under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes must meet requirements that include federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Southampton then asked the judge to bar any use of the land that doesn't meet town zoning laws and other rules.
Tribe trustees said the town's proposal could rule out such activities as the Shinnecocks' annual Fourth of July picnic. Members feared that if the town succeeded, they could end up being held in contempt of court "if they held a wedding," said the tribe's lawyer, Christopher Lunding.
The town's lawyer, Michael Cohen, told the court Friday that Southampton wasn't trying to stop traditional Shinnecock activities.
"It's making an issue where, really, none exists," he said later.
To the judge, the issue was the possibility that the town's request could entangle the federal court in future spats over local zoning.
"Why should that come before me when this case was about a casino?" he said.