Procedural Posture

Plaintiff appealed from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) which granted the defendants’ motion to quash and dismissed claims of bad faith breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion.

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Overview

Plaintiff entered into a contract to manage a casino on the defendant Indian tribes reservation. Thereafter, defendants terminated its contract with plaintiff without cause. Plaintiff filed suit and defendants filed a motion to stay the proceedings, or in the alternative to quash, on the ground federal law preempted Indian gaming and gaming contract regulation which deprived the state court of jurisdiction. Defendants also moved to quash on the ground the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the tribe, its officers, members and agents due to their sovereign immunity. The lower court dismissed the suit because the defendants did not waive their sovereign immunity. The court held that sovereign immunity extended to individual members and outside legal counsel in order to protect the defendants’ interests and ensure adequate legal counsel, and federal law completely preempted the field of Indian gaming, thus state court could not entertain plaintiff’s complaint.

Outcome

Judgment affirmed because federal law had completely preempted the field of Indian gaming thus state court could not entertain plaintiff’s complaint; defendant Indian tribe enjoyed sovereign immunity which extended to individual members and outside legal counsel.

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