Several leaders and employees of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
are being sued by a consumer of the tribe's online lending operation.
Isaiah A. Jones III filed the lawsuit in the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Record reported. The Eastern District falls within the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
The location of the filing is notable because of a recent decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
. In a case that originated in Virginia, the court held that a lending business owned by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
enjoys sovereign immunity as an "arm of the tribe."
The unanimous July 3 decision set an important standard for determining whether a tribal entity can be sued without its consent. But the court's holding does not apply outside the 4th Circuit unless other courts choose to adopt it.
Jones does not raise the same "arm of the tribe" issues in his June 7 complaint
. But in seeking to represent other consumers of the Lac du Flambeau Band's RadiantCash operation, he is trying to pierce the tribe's sovereign immunity by going after tribal leaders, including President Joseph Wildcat Sr., and employees in their personal capacities. He also accuses them of running a criminal enterprise in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
"There are common questions of law and fact that apply to all class members, including but not limited to: (a) whether Pennsylvania law applies to loans from Radiant or LDF Holdings to borrowers in Pennsylvania; (b) whether the tribal dispute resolution procedure is enforceable against Mr. Jones and class members; (c) whether the Individual Defendants are operating an enterprise through the collection of unlawful debt in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962, and (c) whether the Individual Defendants are protected from suit in their personal capacity by tribal immunity," the complaint reads.
According to Jones, RadiantCash charges interest rates and other fees that are illegal were the business to operate under Pennsylvania law. The tribe operates the business from its reservation in Wisconsin.
Read More on the Story
Chester man alleges tribe-run online lender charged excessive rates on loan
(The Pennsylvania Record August 8, 2019)
Josh Dhyani, Brian Epling and Jennifer Galloway: Big Picture Loans Lands Big Win for Tribal Lenders in Sovereign Immunity Case
(JD Supra August 8, 2019)
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