- Can a federal court exercise jurisdiction over a state suit alleging violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act where the gaming activity is not located on Indian lands?
- Does tribal sovereign immunity bar a state from suing a tribe in federal court for violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act?
In 2010, Bay Mills Indian Community used funds acquired through the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act to purchase property away from the tribe’s reservation and used the property to open a casino. Michigan sought an injunction to stop operation of the casino, which the state contends violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA") because it is not located on Indian lands. The district court granted an injunction to stop the gambling activities occurring away from the reservation. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that it lacked jurisdiction over Michigan's suit because IGRA only establishes federal court jurisdiction when the gaming is conducted on Indian lands. The Sixth Circuit further concluded that Bay Mills was immune from suit because Congress did not expressly authorize such suits and Bay Mills did not waive its immunity. Michigan argues that the IGRA can grant federal court jurisdiction and abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. Bay Mills argues that the IGRA cannot abrogate tribal sovereign immunity, and even if it could it would only apply to suits on Indian lands. This case could substantially alter the relationship between states and tribes, and impact the creation and regulation of off-reservation gaming. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s resolution of the sovereign immunity question could reshape the status of federally recognized tribes and impact the economic development of all federally recognized tribes.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq. (IGRA), authorizes an Indian tribe to conduct class III gaming under limited circumstances and only on "Indian lands." 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(1). This dispute involves a federal court's authority to enjoin an Indian tribe from operating an illegal casino located off of "Indian lands." The petition presents two recurring questions of jurisprudential significance that have divided the circuits:
- Whether a federal court has jurisdiction to enjoin activity that violates IGRA but takes place outside of Indian lands.
- Whether tribal sovereign immunity bars a state from suing in federal court to enjoin a tribe from violating IGRA outside of Indian lands.
- Jefferson Keel and John Echohawk, Keeping a Close Eye on Michigan v Bay Mills Indian Community, Native News Network (Sep. 8, 2013)
- Brian Smith, Bay Mills casino case set for December argument before US Supreme Court, MLive.com (Oct. 17, 2013)
- Gabriel Galanda and Ryan Dreveskracht, The Bay Mills Buck Stops with NIGC, Indian Country Today Media Network (Nov. 6, 2013)
- Ryan Seelau and Ian Record, Will the Supreme Court Use Bay Mills Case to Blow Up Tribal Sovereignty?, Indian Country Today Media Network (Nov. 5, 2013)