Opinion: Tribal sovereign immunity just doesn't make any sense

"Automotive United Trades Organization v. State of Washington came down Thursday from the Washington Supreme Court. The matter, which I wrote about almost a year ago, had to do with Gov. Chris Gregoire’s agreements with Indian tribes to reimburse them 75 percent of the tax the state had collected on their sales of gasoline. The question for the court was whether the gasoline dealers, who compete with the tribal gas stations, could sue the governor even though they could not sue a tribe. In other words, did the tribes’ sovereign immunity protect the governor as well?

I am no expert on Indian law, but from my layman’s perspective, I don’t think sovereign immunity makes any sense. You can sue the city, the county, the state or the federal government. Why can’t you sue a tribe? But given that the tribes do have sovereign immunity, I don’t think they should be able to let anyone else snuggle under that warm blanket, in particular the governor, because that means she can make any unconstitutional agreement and be immune from court review if her counterpart is a tribe."

Get the Story:
Bruce Ramsey: The tribal sovereign immunity case and the governor (The Seattle Times 8/31)

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

Related Stories:
Radio: Non-Indian gas stations win ruling in tribal compact suit (8/31)
Gasoline taxation lawsuit to proceed without tribal involvement (8/30)
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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