your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Appeals court rules against tribal immunity
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Congress abrogated tribal sovereign immunity in bankruptcy-related disputes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

Tribes are not mentioned specifically in the federal Bankruptcy Code. But in the first decision of its kind, a unanimous panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded they are open to lawsuits under a section that mentions "foreign and domestic governments."

"Indian tribes are certainly governments, whether considered foreign or domestic," Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote for the three-judge panel.

The court's ruling is precedent-setting, the judges acknowledged. They found no other case, either in the U.S. Supreme Court or other circuits, that considered tribal immunity under the Bankruptcy Code.

In several decisions, the high court has protected tribes from lawsuits. "As a matter of federal law, a tribe is subject to suit only where Congress has authorized the suit or the tribe has waived its immunity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in 1998's Kiowa Tribe case.

Relying on that principle, a federal judge in Arizona dismissed a bankruptcy-related action involving the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the country. U.S. District Judge Mary H. Murguia found that Congress did not abrogate the tribe's immunity.

An energy company that went broke appealed the decision. Krystal Energy claims the tribe unlawfully seized its assets, including oil wells on the reservation. The company also disputes the tribe's $691,000 tax assessment.

Under Supreme Court precedents, a waiver of tribal immunity must be explicit and "unequivocally expressed," according to the Kiowa decision. But in examining the Navajo case, the 10th Circuit found no language in the Bankruptcy Code that mentions tribes.

So instead, the judges looked at cases involving state sovereign immunity. They concluded that Congress, in enacting the code, "did intend to abrogate the sovereign immunity of all 'foreign and domestic governments.'"

Berzon wrote that "the Supreme Court's decisions do not require Congress to utter the magic words 'Indian tribes' when abrogating tribal sovereign immunity. Congress speaks 'unequivocally' when it abrogates the sovereign immunity of 'foreign and domestic governments.'"

The last time the Supreme Court considered tribal immunity was in 2001. In a unanimous decision, the justices held that the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma waived its immunity by signing a contract that included arbitration provisions.

The court avoided touching immunity in a case involving the Bishop-Paiute Tribe of California. County law enforcement are asserting a right to serve criminal warrants on the tribal government.

Get the Decision:

Relevant Links:
Navajo Nation -
U.S. Bankruptcy Code -

Related Stories:
State's raid on tribal land sparks strong reactions (07/16)
Supreme Court avoids tribal immunity question (05/20)
Supreme Court tussles with tribal sovereignty case (04/01)
Supreme Court case too close to call for some (04/01)
Tribes and states stress cooperation not conflict (02/28)
Tribes enter Supreme Court case (2/25)
Showdown looms in tribal sovereignty case (02/20)
State power over tribal government in dispute (12/03)
Supreme Court rules against tribe's immunity (5/1)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorses Hillary Clinton (10/21)
Twenty-Nine Palms Band disputes 'Trump, You're Fired' story (10/21)
Repatriation review committee announces additional meetings (10/21)
Native Sun News Today: Ping-pong continues in #NoDAPL case (10/21)
Lakota Country Times: 'Reel Jobs' school nurtures Lakota talent (10/21)
James Giago Davies: Drugs and crime overrun our reservations (10/21)
Dana Lone Hill: Becoming a grandmother is life's highest honor (10/21)
Misty Perkins: Indigenous voices are lost in colonial translation (10/21)
John Leguizamo: Who was 'mistreating indigenous people' first? (10/21)
Bureau of Land Management confirms repatriation for ancestor (10/21)
Cowlitz Tribe opposes coal export terminal on aboriginal lands (10/21)
Crow Tribe signs agreement to resolve long-running tax dispute (10/21)
National Indian Gaming Commission refutes online gaming claim (10/21)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation stays quiet on long-delayed casino plan (10/21)
Alaska tribes enter new era with first land-into-trust application (10/20)
Native leaders in Alaska endorse Hillary Clinton in historic move (10/20)
Bureau of Indian Affairs finishes update to model juvenile code (10/20)
Utah group aims to elevate Native issues in an unusual election (10/20)
Chemehuevi Tribe secures approval of HEARTH Act regulations (10/20)
Poarch Band of Creek Indians can't be sued for firing employee (10/20)
Native Sun News Today: Oglala veteran shot and killed by police (10/20)
Lakota Country Times: Founders of annual Spiritual Run honored (10/20)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Education system diminishes our people (10/20)
Brandon Ecoffey: It's business as usual for South Dakota's GOP (10/20)
Morgan Rodman: Federal agencies work to protect treaty rights (10/20)
Mary Annette Pember: First baby born at water protector camp (10/20)
Duane Yazzie: Spirituality prevails as #NoDAPL fight continues (10/20)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opens reservation to #NoDAPL camp (10/20)
Haskell University confirms president is still under investigation (10/20)
Agua Caliente Band back in federal court to defend water rights (10/20)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe removes members amid per cap woes (10/20)
Ho-Chunk Nation moves forward with $33M expansion at casino (10/20)
Cowlitz Tribe announces more executives for fast-rising casino (10/20)
Wilton Rancheria continues to make progress on casino project (10/20)
Agency shifts course as ancient remains slated for repatriation (10/19)
Navajo Nation opposes bill that reduces share of trust revenues (10/19)
Doug George-Kanentiio: A voice for residential school survivors (10/19)
Native Sun News Today: LNI hosts girls volleyball tournament (10/19)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe voters send message (10/19)
Editorial: Republicans in South Dakota embrace Monster Trump (10/19)
Vi Waln: Water protector camps overflow with spiritual energy (10/19)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.