Business | Law

Gasoline taxation lawsuit to proceed without tribal involvement

A lawsuit that challenges gasoline compacts will be allowed to proceed without the involvement of tribes, the Washington Supreme Court ruled today.

The Automotive United Trades Organization, which represents non-Indian gas stations, claims the compacts are unfair and unconstitutional. The group filed a lawsuit against the state but not the tribal signatories.

In a 5-4 split, the court acknowledged that tribes enjoy sovereign immunity and can't be sued without their consent. But even though tribes are "necessary parties," the majority said they are not "indispensable" to resolution of the lawsuit.

"While the tribes are necessary parties whose joinder is not feasible due to sovereign immunity, in the circumstances of this case they are not indispensable," the majority stated.

"Where no other forum is available to the plaintiff, the balance tips in favor of allowing this suit to proceed without the tribes," the court wrote in a different part of the opinion.

Get the Story:
Supreme Court allows lawsuit on state gas-tax deal with Indian tribes to proceed (The Tacoma News-Tribune 8/30)

Washington Supreme Court Decision:
Auto. United Trades Org v. Washington [Opinion] | Dissent (August 30, 2012)

Related Stories:
Non-Indian retailers in court over Washington gas compacts (1/13)
Washington Supreme Court to hear suit over tribal gas compact (9/19)
Column: Tribal gas tax compacts due for review in Washington (9/14)

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