Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Federal Jurisdiction — Sovereign Immunity of Indian Tribes Extends to Tribally-Owned Casinos — Congress Must Unequivocally Authorize Suit or Tribe Must Waive Its Immunity

Goldberg v. Foxwoods Resort Casino, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 11138 (2d Cir. June 4, 2013):

Appellant Bruce E. Tassone, pro se, appeals from the judgment of the district court granting Appellees' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), Appellant's complaint asserting, inter alia, violations of Connecticut General Statutes § 53-396, tortious breach of duty, premises liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. ***

It is well-settled that Indian tribes "possess the common-law immunity from suit traditionally enjoyed by sovereign powers." Bassett v. Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, 204 F.3d 343 356 (2d Cir. 2000). As a matter of federal law, "an Indian tribe is subject to suit only where Congress has authorized the suit or the tribe has waived its immunity." Kiowa Tribe of Okla. v. Mfg. Techs., Inc., 523 U.S. 751, 754 (1998). The Supreme Court has explained that, "[t]o abrogate tribal immunity, Congress must unequivocally express that purpose," and "to relinquish its immunity, a tribe's waiver must be clear." C&L Enters., Inc. v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Okla., 532 U.S. 411, 418 (2001) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Tribal immunity also applies to entities, such as Foxwoods Resort Casino, that are arms, agencies or subdivisions of the tribe. See Chayoon v. Chao, 355 F.3d 141, 143 (2d Cir. 2004); see also Bassett, 204 F.3d at 357-58;Worall v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enter., 131 F. Supp. 2d 328, 331 (D. Conn. 2001).

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