Opinion: Significant implications for payday loan decision

"The U.S. District Court in Colorado recently held that Miami Nations' tribal sovereign immunity applied to both governmental and commercial activities (Colorado v. Cash Advance). Consequently, business subdivisions of federally recognized tribes are immune from administrative subpoenas issued by the Colorado Attorney General's Office in an investigation of payday lending. Sovereign immunity broadly protects governments from being required to respond to legal actions in court. Based upon this concept, there are a series of state and federal decisions defining what tribal activities are exempt from state and federal regulation. The Miami Nations decision and others like it have significant legal implications.

In 1831 the U.S. Supreme Court characterized tribes as "denominated domestic dependent nations" (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia). This decision established vague contours of tribal sovereignty. In 1987 the Court held that federally recognized tribes could operate gambling facilities free of state regulation (California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians). While the full legal history is beyond the scope of this comment, tribes have significant legal sovereignty and immunity from suit. The U.S. Congress could limit these rights but until this occurs tribes may contract with non-tribal businesses to conduct activities under this broad umbrella. A noteworthy comment in the recent District Court decision is that if the business entity is an arm-of-the-tribe, the particular business engaged in is irrelevant. This is a very broad affirmation of tribal sovereign immunity."

Get the Story:
Brad Reid: Tribal Sovereign Immunity Applies to Commercial Transactions (The Huffington Post 2/23)

Related Stories:
Colorado authorities go after non-Indian in payday loan case (2/15)
Colorado judge backs immunity for tribes' payday loan firms (2/14)

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