Hwal’Bay Ba: J Enterprises, Inc. v. Jantzen (2/25/20)

This opinion concerns “the circumstances under which a tribal entity enjoys sovereign immunity as a ‘subordinate economic organization’ of the tribe.” If you know what that means then you will want to read it, though it tells you not much of anything new except how to organize your motions and briefs on the subject. But the court clearly wants it to be seen as the new leading case so we’ll mention it, though its not really worthy of a full blog.

The real party in interest was injured on a rafting trip organized by a tribal entity. She sued; the entity claimed immunity; the trial court denied its motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals — presumably seeing this as an issue that would go further up anyway — denied the entity’s special action; the Supreme Court accepted it.

The court briefly reviews basic sovereign-immunity law, reviews at length the Arizona cases on point, and makes passing mention of other jurisdictions. Rather than draw its conclusion from that, though, the court chooses first to reformulate it into “six non-exclusive factors to examine in deciding whether an entity is a subordinate economic organization of a tribe . . . .” The need for doing so isn’t clear, especially since the court neither adds anything new nor omits anything old (except, perhaps, by accident). Its “factors” are broad categories that include all the facts and circumstances that might, as shown by the earlier cases, bear on the subject. But of course from now on you will need to cite the court’s categories and follow its organization in order to show that you have read the case and are following the “law” in announces.

Justice Bolick concurs separately in order to opine that the Tenth Amendment (which for some reason he refers to it as “amend. X”) should limit sovereign immunity.

(Opinion: Hwal’Bay Ba: J Enterprises, Inc. v. Jantzen)