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Suit Doesn�t Hold Water Against Tribe. 2005-12-27
Santa Ana Pueblo can't be sued in state court. They can not be sued by the company that ran a restaurant in its casino as ruled last week. The State Court of Appeals has ruled the contract between them broke down a year later because of technicalities.
The lawsuit was filed by R&R; Deli, Inc., which had a lease with the pueblo to operate a bar and grill at the casino. After a year, the pueblo didn�t secure a new liquor license, which the restaurant needed to continue service according to the contract. The believed the pueblo has this license, and after discovering they didn�t, they sued the pueblo.
R&R; Deli believing the pueblo blocked the license renewal so they could take over the restaurant. This was their claim the deli discussed in their suit against the pueblo in State District Court. The court dismissed the case as it lacked jurisdiction.
The company argued that Santa Ana Pueblo had waived its immunity from lawsuits, because of the contract. Tribes generally have immunity from lawsuits because they are sovereign. Only in tribal court could it be proven, but no damages could come from it like the deli would like it too, according to their suit in state court.
R&R; Deli also argued that a provision in the gambling compact between New Mexico and the tribe waives sovereign immunity. What that means is that visitors could sue for injuries and damages, if that is the case. The court disagreed claiming that was for personal customer injury only. Businesses can not sue contracts with tribes.
There are some other technicalities of changed laws from 1997 to 2004, which they deli could use in their claim. However those technicalities may not hold up in court, because the 1997 law is dead replaced by the 2004 one. The deli will still fight for this case, while the pueblo feels confident this issue will not be pushed further against them.
(By Andrea)