Federal Courts - Indians: The Eleventh Amendment and Seminole Tribe: Reinvigorating the Doctrine of State Sovereign Immunity
28 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2008 Last revised: 31 Mar 2008
In March of 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court in Seminole Tribe v. Florida reassessed the balance of power between the federal government, the state government and tribal governments. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the U.S. Congress provided that Tribes have the ability to sue states who failed to negotiate in good faith for tribal-state gaming compacts in federal courts. In this Court decision, the federal courts were closed to Tribes based an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity clause for state governments. After finding that the U.S. Congress lacked the authority to abrogate Florida's sovereign immunity through Article I commerce power, the Court went on to deny the Ex Parte Young alternative offered by the Seminole Tribe against Florida officials. In the end, the decision may be viewed as positive in terms of reaffirming the tribal-federal relationship, strengthening common law sovereign immunity which the Tribes enjoy, and clarifying that the federal government has a primary role with Tribes.
Keywords: Tribal Nations, Gaming, IGRA, Sovereignty, Sovereign Immunity
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