Commentary: Expansion of tribal sovereignty
"In 1919, in a little known case called Turner v. United States, the Supreme Court held that a tribal government could not be held liable when a mob tore down a landowner’s fence.

At the time of the Turner case, federal, state and local governments were generally immune from lawsuits. Under old common law, the sovereign immunity doctrine prevented citizens from suing their own governments.

Since that time, however, the United States enacted the federal tort claims act and virtually every state and municipal government has followed suit. So, while liberal federal courts were mistakenly expanding Indian tribal immunity, all other governments were becoming legally responsive to their citizens and susceptible to being sued for their misconduct.

That relatively innocuous holding in Turner was expanded by judges over the years, interpreting cases that came before them in favor of Indian tribes establishing what came to be called the Indian Tribal Immunity Doctrine or sometimes the Indian Sovereign Immunity Doctrine.

This doctrine immunized Indian tribal governments from lawsuits for their misconduct of all kinds. This immunity not only precluded lawsuits by non-Indian individuals and governments, but prevented the individual tribal members from suing their own government for misconduct, violation of their rights and misappropriation of their property."

Get the Story:
Jim Marino: WHAT IS SOVEREIGNTY? (The Santa Ynez Valley Journal 8/6)

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Commentary: So just what is tribal sovereignty? (7/3)
Commentary: Just who is a Native American? (6/25)