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Florida judge critical of tribe in immunity case

A judge in Florida is questioning why the Seminole Tribe refuses to waive its sovereign immunity even though it markets the reservation to non-Indians.

In a June 15 opinion [PDF], 2nd District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Chris W. Altenbernd said the tribe has a right to invoke its immunity "concerning the claim of a person who is injured while visiting a traditional reservation to observe and learn about the culture of native Americans."

But the situation changes when it comes to a business that is openly marketed to outsiders, Altenbernd wrote. "The average tourist has no idea that her Florida constitutional rights to access to the courts and to trial by jury do not apply to any claims that may arise while she visits the hotel and casino," he said. "The Tribe itself does not post warnings that its tourist attraction is exempt from these basic Florida constitutional protections."

The decision came in a case where a lower court refused to dismiss a lawsuit for an accident that allegedly occurred at the tribe's casino. The 2nd Circuit ruled that the tribal council had not waived its immunity for the suit.

Get the Story:
Tribe faulted for not warning its casino patrons (The St. Petersburg Times 7/5)

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