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Supreme Court remands tribal sovereign immunity suit

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday remanded [order, PDF] the case of Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ordering the lower court to reconsider its ruling. The Second Circuit ruling [opinion text] had found that tribal sovereign immunity prevented county authorities from foreclosing on property belonging to the Oneida Indian Nation [official website]. Authorities in Madison and Oneida counties in New York had sought the foreclosures due to the failure of the tribe to pay county taxes. The Supreme Court decided to remand the case after the Oneida Indian Nation passed an ordinance in November waiving "its sovereign immunity to enforcement of real property taxation through foreclosure by state, county and local governments within and throughout the United States." Upon remand, the Supreme Court ordered the Second Circuit to rule in the first instance on whether the ordinance should change the court's earlier decision.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case [JURIST report] in October to determine whether tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars taxing authorities from foreclosing to collect lawfully imposed property taxes and whether the ancient Oneida reservation in New York was disestablished or diminished. The case was the most recent in a series of disputes between the Oneida Indian Nation and New York state authorities over the question of state and local taxes. The Supreme Court had previously ruled against [opinion text] the tribe's claims of immunity over tribal lands that were sold in the nineteenth century and repurchased by the tribe within the previous decade.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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