The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai A Professional Corporation

Tribe challenges court ruling in contract dispute in California

Native American tribes are considered sovereign entities that reside within the U.S. borders. This makes their relationship with U.S. laws somewhat ambiguous, since they are in many ways required to comply with some regulations from the U.S. government, while in other ways they are not. However, the Chukchansi tribe in California waived their sovereign immunity in order to employ the manager of their casino and hotel, which means they could be liable to a lawsuit filed by the manager in a contract dispute.

The tribe hired the manager on a five year contract but then the tribe decided to fire the manager in 2012. The former manager alleges that the tribe owes him $725,000 and is currently suing for this amount in a local county court. The judge in the case ruled in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the local sheriff to go to the tribe's casino and remove the money owed from the casino till in order to resolve the settlement for the plaintiff.

However, the ruling is being challenged by a faction of the tribal council which is being led by a woman who is currently in a separate dispute with the tribe. The judge in the most recent case ordered the 'till tap' because the tribe's bank accounts had been frozen due to the dispute between the woman leading the challenge to the 'till tap' ruling. The court ruling states that the tap must be done before the end of November or the former manager will be allowed to take action to take other tribe assets in order to fulfill the judgment.

A contract dispute, as this case in California has shown, may not be all that simple to decide. Even with an initial court ruling, the losing party may have a chance to appeal and prolong the need for litigation. Chances of prevailing in a breach of contract lawsuit will depend upon knowledge of contract laws and how to apply them to the circumstances of the specific case.

Source: Fresno Bee, "Judge orders sheriff to tap Chukchansi casino profits to pay lawsuit," Marc Benjamin, June 22, 2013

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