Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cracking the Tribal Sovereignty Dam

Did you know that if you are injured on Tribal land that you can only sue if the tribe gives you that right? Here, it looks like the state courts are expanding jurisdiction in Oklahoma, giving citizens who are harmed the right to sue.

In a ruling that a Choctaw Nation attorney called a blow to tribal sovereignty, a split Oklahoma Supreme Court has held in two cases that lawsuits against Choctaw casinos can be brought in state courts as well as tribal courts.

“I’ve been representing Indian tribes for 40 years, and this is probably the single most difficult blow for tribal sovereignty that I have ever seen in my career,” said Choctaw counsel Bob Rabon. “These tribes have never been subject to state court jurisdiction.”

The court’s decisions came in two lawsuit filed by individuals claiming they were injured at the Choctaw Casino at Pocola. The rulings track with justices’ recent opinion in the Cossey case, which involved a lawsuit against Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

Rabon represented the Choctaw Nation in the case involving Danny and Pat Dye of Lavaca, Ark. Danny Dye alleged that he was injured in December 2005 when he was hit by a casino shuttle cart.

“This gaming is conducted on Indian country, the tribes’ Indian country,” Rabon said.

Previously, he said, no court has attempted to exercise jurisdiction over a tribe’s activities on its own land.

Read the rest of the story HERE

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