U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Tribal Sovereign Immunity

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Tribal Sovereign Immunity

On Tuesday, May 27th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community. The 5-4 decision upholding tribal sovereign immunity was a surprise to many legal scholars. In sum, the Court: (1) upheld the Bay Mills Indian Community’s sovereign immunity from suit; (2) rejected the State of Michigan’s claims that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act abrogated the Tribe’s immunity from suit, reasoning that the Tribe’s land was not considered Indian lands; and (3) rejected the State’s claim that the Supreme Court should overrule the Court’s 1998 Kiowa Tribe decision, which upheld that tribe’s sovereign immunity when it was engaged in commercial activity off Indian lands.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority. She was joined by the Chief Justice, John Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Ginsberg each filed separate dissenting opinions. View the full text of the decision by clicking this link.