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Turtle Talk: Tribes dodge a major bullet in Supreme Court case

Filed Under: Litigation | Opinion
More on: bay mills, immunity, matthew fletcher, michigan, soo tribe, supreme court
Professor Matthew Fletcher, whose law paper was cited by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, offers his first thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community:
The Bay Mills Indian Community and the rest of Indian country dodged a very large bullet aimed by the State of Michigan at a core principle of inherent tribal sovereignty and tribal governance with today’s opinion by Justice Kagan. The stakes were incredibly high for tribal interests, and may remain so for the foreseeable future as more sovereign immunity cases work their way through the pipeline. In fact, Justice Kagan pointed out that several possible fact patterns that might justify serious reconsideration (“special justification”) are not before the Court.

I count several state law mechanisms; however, all are untested. Michigan has teed up a suit against tribal officials for injunctive relief. I guess we move there next, unless BMIC pays up and settles for a large percentage of off-reservation gaming revenues.

Also, the majority highlights two mechanisms expressly endorsed by counsel for the tribe at oral argument that I imagine most tribal leaders, perhaps even Bay Mills’, are not happy about: suing tribal officials for injunctive relief and utilizing state criminal laws. In this respect, the opinion (from the perspective of tribal interests) is tainted.

In the end, perhaps the biggest winner will be the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which is making similar arguments as Bay Mills in favor of a Lansing MI casino, but has a somewhat stronger argument under the terms of the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. Expect to see a denial of Michigan’s cert petition in the fall.

Get the Story:
Bay Mills Opinion First Impressions — Dodging the Biggest Bullet Since Worcester (Turtle Talk 5/27)

Oral Arguments on theIndianz.Com SoundCloud:

Relevant Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Supreme Court Docket Sheet No. 12-515 | Supreme Court Order List

6th Circuit Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (August 15, 2012)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court backs Bay Mills in off-reservation gaming case (5/27)

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