KGOU: Tribal immunity attacked in Supreme Court casino case

The shuttered Bay Mills Indian Community casino in Vanderbilt, Michigan. Photo © Bay Mills News

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community indicates a shift in thinking on tribal sovereign immunity, according to attorney Brian Pierson:
“When the Supreme Court last visited the doctrine in 1998, it was 6-3 decision and it generated a majority opinion of about 2,500 words and dissent of about 2,000 words. Well, 16 years later it was a 5-4 decision and it generated majority opinions of over 10,000 words and dissenting opinions of over 7,000 words,” Pierson said.

“The attack on the doctrine by the dissent is much more vigorous and includes circumstances that, according to the dissent, have emerged in the last 16 years to reveal the incorrectness of the decision,” Pierson said.

What has emerged in the last 16 years is the rise of tribal economies and the fact that the tribes are competing in interstate commerce to a much higher degree.

The dissent opinion complains about what it calls the tribes' “exploitation of immunity” to avoid paying taxes for which they’re legally liable, taking advantage in the tobacco industry and the pay day lending industry.

“They've used their tribal sovereign immunity to avoid state laws that apply but that simply cannot be enforced against them because of tribal sovereign immunity,” Pierson said.

Get the Story:
Did Tribal Sovereign Immunity Dodge A Bullet? (KGOU 6/6)

Supreme Court Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (May 27, 2014)

Oral Arguments on the Indianz.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)

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