Here are the materials in Allen v. Smith (S.D. Cal.):
Judge William Q. Hayes of the Southern District of California ruled that sovereign immunity barred claims against the Pala Band of Mission Indians seeking enrollment in the Tribe and money damages. Importantly, the court distinguished the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Maxwell v. San Diego County.
Here are some key excerpts:
The Maxwell court distinguished the facts of its case from Hardin v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 779 F.2d 476 (9th Cir. 1985), a case where the plaintiff sued tribal council members for allegedly ordering tribal police to eject plaintiff from tribal land. Id. at 478. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Hardin concluded that the council members “had act[ed] in their representative capacity and within the scope of their authority.” Id. at 479. “Holding the defendants [in Hardin] liable for their legislative functions would … have attacked the very core of tribal sovereignty.” Maxwell, 2013 WL 542756 at *12.
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Based upon the “essential nature and effect” of the injunctive and declaratory relief sought in the Complaint, the Court finds that the Pala Tribe is the “real, substantial party in interest” in this case. Maxwell, 2013 WL 542756 at *11. Only the Pala Tribe, whose sovereign immunity is unquestioned, could satisfy the relief sought in the Complaint, i.e. the reinstatement of Plaintiffs as members of the Tribe. Defendants, as members of the Executive and Enrollment Committees, “possess the power” to grant Plaintiffs that relief “on behalf of the tribe.” Id. Accordingly, the Court finds that this action, as alleged, is fundamentally one against the Pala Tribe and that Plaintiffs have sued the individual Defendants in their official capacities.
. . .
The Court finds that the relief sought in this Complaint would “require affirmative action by the sovereign,” i.e. the Pala Tribe’s re-enrollment of Plaintiffs. Larson, 337 U.S. at 691 n.11. Such a remedy would operate against the Pala Tribe, impermissibly infringing upon its sovereign immunity. See generally Lewis v. Norton, 424 F.3d 959 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Courts have held that tribal immunity bars suits to force tribes to comply with their membership provisions, as well as suits to force tribes to change their membership provisions.”(citations omitted)); Santa Clara Pueblo, 436 U.S. at 72 n.32 (“A tribe’s right to define its own membership for tribal purposes has long been recognized as central to its existence as an independent political community…. Given the often vast gulf between tribal traditions and those with which federal courts are more intimately familiar, the judiciary should not rush to create causes of action that would intrude on these delicate matters.”); Imperial Granite Co., 940 F.2d at 1272 (“[A] tribe’s immunity is not defeated by an allegation that it acted beyond its powers.”). Based upon the factual allegations of the Complaint and the nature and effect of the relief sought, the Court concludes that Defendants acted in their official capacities and within the scope of their authority when they made the membership determinations at issue in this case.