Latest SCOTUS Bungle: It Denied a Case to Hold Miccosukees Accountable for Something, for Once, Ever
|Should sovereign immunity still apply?|
The bad news: All we had to do was sacrifice our society's guiding sense of accountability.
Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court denied an appeal questioning whether tribes like the Miccosukee -- or the Seminoles, for that matter -- should possess sovereign immunity that trumps almost all American law. That means once you're at a Tribe-owned or -operated establishment, American laws cease to matter, in part complicating the investigation of Anna Nicole Smith's Seminole death.
And, in part, causing Tatiana Flurry's death, her family alleges.
One January night three years, Flurry drank a substantial amount at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, becoming otherworldly intoxicated. The bar, though Flurry's inebriation was clear, kept the tab running with full knowledge she was "habitually addicted" to alcohol, the original complaint says.
Sounds like any college bar in Florida, right? Not quite. Under the Dram Shop Law, Florida taverns are potentially liable for the actions of their drunk patrons, especially if that patron was served after it was apparent he or she was drunk.
So we have Flurry, drunk to such a degree that her blood-alcohol level crests at 0.32, who gets into her car and later dies in an extremely strange car accident. (But that's a different story.) If Flurry had gotten drunk in any American bar, her family would have had grounds to sue the bar for serving their daughter even though she had been sauced.
But at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, that law doesn't apply thanks to sovereign immunity -- even if the establishment serves alcohol with a Florida license. "People have no idea that when you go onto Indian tribe land that your rights stop there," attorney Sean Cleary said, who entered the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Certain parts of sovereign immunity have become terribly outdated. Established in the 1800s, it was to honor the Native American tribes with some vestige of independence after all the tragedy settlers had brought. It was to grant immunity from American jurisdiction. But those days were very different, and many of the facts governing that period have lost their relevance. That was before the rise of these multibillion-dollar resorts on Native lands, before driving, let alone drunk driving.
Today, we're left with a situation in which the laws of sovereign immunity haven't kept pace with the times. And the U.S. Supreme Court -- with its denial of this petition -- just became complicit.