Friday, August 03, 2007

Lawrence v. Barona Valley Ranch Resort (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 3, 2007)

I always root for USD Law alums to prevail in the Court of Appeal. I'm a loyal guy in that regard.

Nonetheless, even though Bonnie Kane and Todd Tappe (both USD Law graduates) represented the appellants in this one, I'm constrained to agree with Justice McIntyre. You can't sue the Barona Tribe in state court even if you're injured at their casino and even if they've agreed -- as they did pursuant to the compact with the State of California that enabled the tribe to build and run the casino -- to waive their sovereign immunity to suit in certain circumstances. Barona only lets you sue them in tribal court, not state court. So, as unfair as it may seem, in this case, the only place you can sue is in front the Barona Tribal Council itself.

Yes, it may seem to be absurd to allow the same entity to be both the defendant and the judge. But no one said that immunity always seems fair. That's just the way it is. Affirmed.

Remember that, perhaps, the next time you feel like visiting the Barona Casino (or the Barona Golf Course). Sovereign immunity. It's not just a subject in law school.

P.S. - While I feel bad for Bonnie and Todd, I was heartened to discover that one of the two lawyers who represented the defendant -- Kathryn Clenney -- is also a USD Law graduate. So while USD lost, it also won.