California Court of Appeals:
Applying the arm-of-the-tribe analysis as we directed in Ameriloan v. Superior Court (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 81 (Ameriloan), the trial court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction this action by the Commissioner of the California Department of Corporations against five “payday loan” businesses owned by Miami Nation Enterprises (MNE), the economic development authority of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian tribe, and SFS, Inc., a corporation wholly owned by the Santee Sioux Nation, also a federally recognized Indian tribe. Because the two tribal entities and their cash-advance and short-term-loan businesses are sufficiently related to their respective Indian tribes to be protected from this state enforcement action under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, we affirm.
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In the end, tribal immunity does not depend on our evaluation of the respectability or ethics of the business in which a tribe or tribal entity elects to engage. Absent an extraordinary set of circumstances not present here, a tribal entity functions as an arm of the tribe if it has been formed by tribal resolution and according to tribal law, for the stated purpose of tribal economic development and with the clearly expressed intent by the sovereign tribe to convey its immunity to that entity, and has a governing structure both appointed by and ultimately overseen by the tribe. Such a tribal entity is immune from suit absent express waiver or congressional authorization. Neither third-party management of day-to-day operations nor retention of only a minimal percentage of the profits from the enterprise (however that may be defined) justifies judicial negation of that inherent element of tribal sovereignty.
The judgment is affirmed. MNE and SFS are to recover their costs on appeal.
PERLUSS, P. J.
Read the Decision in it’s entirety here: Calif-Tribe-Doctrine-Upheld