Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Tribal Sovereign Immunity Definition:

(USA) A doctrine that Indian tribes are immune from judicial proceedings without their consent or Congressional waiver.

Related Terms: Tribal Sovereignty

In the American encyclopedia of law, the Corpus Juris Secundum, in the title Indians, these words:

"Generally speaking, the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity precludes a suit against an Indian tribe except in instances in which Congress has abrogated that immunity or the tribe has foregone it....

"Tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to individual tribal members nor to tribal officers unless they are acting in a representative capacity within the scope of their authority, although the immunity does apply to tribal housing authorities and enterprises."

In Aroostock, Justice Lipez of the United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit) wrote, emphasizing the distinction between tribal sovereignty and tribal sovereign immunity:

"Tribal sovereignty is a common law doctrine recognizing (Indian) tribes' inherent powers to self-govern, including the power to determine the structure and internal operations of the governing body itself, and exempting tribes from state law that would otherwise infringe upon this sovereignty.

"Tribal sovereign immunity is a common law doctrine providing that tribes are immune from lawsuits or quasi-judicial proceedings without their consent or Congressional waiver."


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