Lewis and Clarke have been on a multi-year journey that is finally coming to ahead. No this isn’t the famous duo of explorers we are talking about, this is a very important Supreme Court case regarding tribal sovereignty.
In one of the first cases of the new year the Court has agreed to hear Lewis v. Clarke a case out of Connecticut. Back in 2011 William Clarke was driving a limousine for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority when he got into a crash with Brian and Michelle Lewis. At the time Clarke was driving customers to one of the tribal casinos. Originally the Lewis family filed a personal injury suit against both Clarke and the tribe, but because of sovereign immunity for the tribe they dropped the suit against the tribe and individually targeted the case at William Clarke.
Clarke asked for the case to be dismissed claiming immunity under tribal sovereignty as an employee of the tribe activinging in his official capacity. The trial court rejected Clarke’s request because the Lewis family was seeking damages from him personally, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed that decisions saying that Clarke was protected under tribal authority.
So now the eight member Supreme Court will have to decided if tribal immunity extends to employees working in the scope of their employment when it comes to tort claims like personal injury.
The results of this case could set precedents that have major impacts down the line when it comes to issues involving tribal law and sovereign immunity.