In Lewis v. Clarke, the justices will consider the scope of tribes’ sovereign immunity. The dispute began in 2011 when plaintiffs Brian and Michelle Lewis were hit by a limousine driven by William Clarke, a limousine driver who worked for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. Both plaintiffs were injured in the accident. They filed a personal injury lawsuit against Clarke and the Mohegan Tribe.

Clarke countered that he was entitled to immunity because he was working for the Tribe, which would have had immunity.  Native American tribes are protected in U.S. courts by sovereign immunity, shielding the tribes and governments, as well as their employees when doing official business, from lawsuits unless the tribe waives immunity.

The state trial court rejected his argument, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed. SCOTUS was then asked to take the case and decide whether a tribe’s sovereign immunity bars lawsuits against tribal employees for damages based on actions committed within the scope of their employment.

Read additional details on SCOTUSblog.

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Jennifer Morinigo

The American Law Institute

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