California Supreme Court Sets Criteria for Application of Sovereign Immunity to Tribal Businesses

California Supreme Court Sets Criteria for Application of Sovereign Immunity to Tribal Businesses

The expansion of tribal business endeavors has spawned a proliferation of litigation surrounding the activities of such businesses. In response, tribes have often asserted sovereign immunity as a defense in these cases. Recently, the California Supreme Court, in People ex rel Jan Lynn Owen v. Miami Nation Enterprises, et al., S216878, clarified the test for application of sovereign immunity to a tribal affiliated business entity.

The Court applied the “arm of the tribe” standard to tribal immunity. The Court went on to hold that an entity’s assertion of sovereign immunity protection would be evaluated against five criteria:

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