California Appellate Court Finds Waiver of Tribal Immunity in Dispute over Authority of Council to Waive Immunity

Here is the opinion in Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (Cal. Ct. App.).

An excerpt:

This appeal requires us to determine whether a Native American tribe known as the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (the Tribe) validly waived its sovereign immunity for purposes of the enforcement by construction contractor Robert Findleton (Findleton) of arbitration provisions in contracts between them. Findleton claims the Tribe waived its sovereign immunity when its Tribal Council entered into, and then amended, contracts with Findleton containing arbitration clauses and also adopted a resolution expressly waiving sovereign immunity to allow arbitration of disputes under the contracts. The Tribe disagrees, arguing the Tribal Council lacked authority to waive the Tribe’s immunity and therefore any such waivers were invalid, because the power to waive the Tribe’s immunity had not been properly delegated to the Tribal Council in accordance with the procedures specified by the Tribe’s constitution. The superior court agreed with the Tribe and held that it lacked jurisdiction over Findleton’s claims because there had been no valid waiver of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity. Findleton appealed.