Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Tribal Immunity Case >>

December 4th, 2013

Supreme Court Hears Michigan v. Bay Mills – Tribal Sovereign Immunity Case

On Monday, December 2, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, a case involving questions of Indian gaming, jurisdiction, and tribal sovereign immunity.

The questioning was tough for both sides of this argument. Justices that seemed to side with the Tribe questioned the motives of the State of Michigan in bringing the suit in federal court. They acknowledged that the State has state law remedies to resolve their concerns, and noted that the Tribe’s casino is closed. In addition, they noted that if the State of Michigan finds this remedy inadequate, it could ask Congress to fix the perceived problem.

Justices that seemed to side with the State took the view that the state’s arrest power remedy is inadequate and the federal government is doing nothing to deter tribes from opening off-reservation gaming operations on non-Indian lands. These justices also noted that Congress has not addressed tribal sovereign immunity in 15 years since the last Supreme Court case on tribal sovereign immunity (Kiowa).

All of Indian Country takes great pause any time the current U.S. Supreme Court weighs the issue of tribal sovereignty. The Court is expected to issue its decision in February or March of 2014. You can view the transcript of the oral argument by clicking here.

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