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A federal judge has extended a land claim lawsuit by the Oneida Indian Nation to include the State of New York, but he refused to let the action target private landowners.

The Oneidas filed suit against Madison and Oneida counties seeking compensation for 250,000 acres they claim the state purchased illegally in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

U.S. District Judge Neal P. McCurn agreed with the Oneidas on Monday to include the state as a defendant in the lawsuit, but he said adding landowners to the lawsuit "would only unnecessarily further prolong this litigation and increase community tensions in the claim area."

"No private landowners will be evicted from property upon which they are currently residing," he wrote.

Drawing on a decision reached earlier this year in a similar case involving the Cayuga Indians, the judge also barred the Oneidas from seeking monetary damages against the landowners.

The Oneidas welcomed the ruling.

"The nation has always said it does not want eviction or damages against private landowners," said Oneida Indian Nation spokesman Mark Emery. "The judge's ruling means that the litigation can finally get under way, and that the state can no longer avoid the responsibility for its wrongdoing."

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