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Seminole gambling

Tribe protected from lawsuits

Times Staff Writer

The sovereign-nation status of Indian tribes provides immunity from lawsuits. With only a few exceptions, no one can sue a tribe or its employees.

The immunity issue has been brought up on Capitol Hill by Sen. Slade Gorton, a Washington Republican. In a speech to the Senate this year, Gorton talked of citizens deprived of the right to sue: a Minnesota woman fired from a casino because of her age; Puget Sound landowners unable to enforce a court order prohibiting Indians from harvesting shellfish on their shores; a Washington man whose son was killed when Indian police officers ran a red light.

Under normal constitutional guarantees, Gorton said, "Every American citizen should be granted the opportunity to his or her case in a neutral court."

Indian lobbyists point out that two-thirds of the nation's 554 tribes do not have gambling revenue and could be ruined by lawsuits.

Senators have agreed to take up the question in 1998.  

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