__ U.S. __ (2014), 12-515, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community
|Citation:||__ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 2024, 188 L.Ed.2d 1071, 82 U.S.L.W. 4398, 24 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 765|
|Opinion Judge:||Kagan, Justice.|
|Party Name:||MICHIGAN, Petitioner v. BAY MILLS INDIAN COMMUNITY et al|
|Attorney:||John J. Bursch argued the cause for petitioner. Neal Kumar Katyal argued the cause for respondents. Edwin S. Kneedler argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court.|
|Judge Panel:||Kagan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a concurring opinion. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, Ginsburg, and Alito, JJ., joined. Gi...|
|Case Date:||May 27, 2014|
|Court:||United States Supreme Court|
Argued December 2, 2013.
[134 S.Ct. 2025] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
695 F.3d 406, affirmed and remanded.
DECISION: Tribal sovereign immunity held to bar state's suit against tribe for allegedly violating Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C.S. § 2701 et seq.) by opening casino outside Indian lands.
[134 S.Ct. 2026] The State of Michigan, petitioner, entered into a compact with respondent Bay Mills Indian Community pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). See 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(1)(C). The compact authorizes Bay Mills to conduct class III gaming activities ( i.e., to operate a casino) on Indian lands located within the State's borders, but prohibits it from doing so outside that territory. Bay Mills later opened a second casino on land it had purchased through a congressionally established land trust. The Tribe claimed it could operate a casino there because the property qualified as Indian land. Michigan disagreed and sued the Tribe under § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii), which allows a State to enjoin " class III gaming activity located on Indian lands and conducted in violation of any Tribal-State compact." The District Court granted the injunction, but the Sixth Circuit vacated. It held that tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit unless Congress provided otherwise, and that § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) only authorized suits to enjoin gaming activity located " on Indian lands," whereas Michigan's complaint alleged the casino was outside such territory.
Held: Michigan's suit against Bay Mills is barred by tribal sovereign immunity. Pp. ___ - ___, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 1082-1093.
[134 S.Ct. 2027] (a) As " 'domestic dependent nations,' " Indian tribes exercise " inherent sovereign authority" that is subject to plenary control by Congress. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe of Okla., 498 U.S. 505, 509, 111 S.Ct. 905, 112 L.Ed.2d 1112. Unless and " until Congress acts, the tribes retain" their historic sovereign authority. United States
v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313, 323, 98 S.Ct. 1079, 55 L.Ed.2d 303. Among the core aspects of sovereignty that tribes possess--subject to congressional action--is the " common-law immunity from suit traditionally enjoyed by sovereign powers." Santa Clara Pueblo
(b) IGRA's plain terms do not authorize this suit. Section 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) partially abrogates tribal immunity with respect to class III gaming located " on Indian lands," but the very premise of Michigan's suit is that Bay Mills' casino is unlawful because it is outside Indian lands. Michigan argues that the casino is authorized, licensed, and operated from within the reservation, and that such administrative action constitutes " class III gaming activity." However, numerous other IGRA provisions make clear that " class III gaming activity" refers to the gambling that goes on in a casino, not the off-site licensing of such games. See, e.g., § § 2710(d)(3)(C)(i), (d)(9). IGRA's history and design also explain why Congress would have authorized a State to enjoin illegal tribal gaming on Indian lands but not on lands subject to the State's own sovereign jurisdiction. Congress adopted IGRA in response to California
v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202, 221-222, 107 S.Ct. 1083, 94 L.Ed.2d 244, which held that States lacked regulatory authority over gaming on Indian lands but left intact States' regulatory power over tribal gaming outside Indian territory. A State therefore has many tools to enforce its law on state land that it does not possess in Indian territory, including, e.g., bringing a civil or criminal action against tribal officials rather than the tribe itself for conducting illegal gaming. A State can also use its leverage in negotiating an IGRA compact to bargain for a waiver of the tribe's immunity. Pp. ___ - ___, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 1084-1099.
(c) Michigan urges the Court to overrule Kiowa and hold that tribal immunity does not apply to commercial activity outside Indian territory. However, " any departure" from precedent " demands special justification," Arizona
v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203, 212, 104 S.Ct. 2305, 81 L.Ed.2d 164, and Michigan offers nothing more than arguments already rejected in Kiowa . Kiowa rejected these arguments because it is fundamentally Congress's job to determine whether or how to limit tribal immunity; Congress had restricted tribal immunity " in limited circumstances" like § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii), while " in other statutes" declaring an " intention not to alter it." 523 U.S., at 758, 118 S.Ct. 1700, 140 L.Ed.2d 981. Kiowa therefore chose to " defer to the role Congress may wish to exercise in this important judgment." Ibid. Congress has since reflected on Kiowa and decided to retain tribal immunity in a case like this. Having held that the issue is up to Congress, [134 S.Ct. 2028] the Court cannot reverse itself now simply because some may think Congress's conclusion wrong. Pp. ___ - ___, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 1088-1093.
695 F.3d 406, affirmed and remanded.
The question in this case is whether tribal sovereign immunity bars Michigan's suit against the Bay Mills Indian Community for opening a casino outside Indian lands. We hold that immunity protects Bay Mills from this legal action. Congress has not abrogated tribal sovereign immunity from a State's suit to enjoin gaming off a reservation or other Indian lands. And we decline to revisit our prior decisions holding that, absent such an abrogation (or a waiver), Indian tribes have immunity even when a suit arises from off-reservation commercial activity. Michigan must therefore resort to other mechanisms, including legal actions against the responsible individuals, to resolve this dispute.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA or Act), 102 Stat. 2467, 25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., creates a framework for regulating gaming activity on Indian lands. 1 See § 2702(3) (describing the statute's purpose as establishing " regulatory authority . . . [and] standards for gaming on Indian lands" ). The Act divides gaming into three classes. Class III gaming, the most closely regulated and the kind involved here, includes casino games, slot machines, and horse racing. See § 2703(8). A tribe may conduct such gaming on Indian lands only pursuant to, and in compliance with, a compact it has negotiated with the surrounding State. See § 2710(d)(1)(C). A compact typically prescribes rules for operating gaming, allocates [134 S.Ct. 2029] law enforcement authority between the tribe and State, and provides remedies for breach of the agreement's terms. See § § 2710(d)(3)(C)(ii), (v). Notable here, IGRA itself authorizes a State to bring suit against a tribe for certain conduct violating a compact: Specifically, § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) allows a State to sue in federal court to " enjoin a class III gaming activity located on Indian lands and conducted in violation of any Tribal-State compact . . . that is in effect."
Pursuant to the Act, Michigan and Bay Mills, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, entered into a compact in 1993. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 73a-96a. The compact empowers Bay Mills to conduct class III gaming on " Indian lands" ; conversely, it prohibits the Tribe from doing so outside that territory. Id., at 78a, 83a; see n. 1, supra . The compact also contains a dispute resolution mechanism, which sends to arbitration any contractual differences the parties cannot settle on their own. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 89a-90a. A provision within that arbitration section states that " [n]othing in this Compact shall be deemed a waiver" of either the Tribe's or the State's sovereign immunity. Id., at 90a. Since entering into the compact, Bay Mills has operated class III gaming, as authorized, on its reservation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
In 2010, Bay Mills opened another class III gaming facility in Vanderbilt, a small village in Michigan's Lower Peninsula about 125 miles from the Tribe's reservation. Bay Mills had bought the Vanderbilt property with accrued interest from a federal appropriation, which Congress had made to compensate the Tribe for 19th-century takings of its ancestral lands. See Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, 111 Stat. 2652. Congress had directed that a portion of the appropriated funds go into a "...
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