A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that Native American tribes cannot be sued under the False Claims Act in a decision involving a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former employees of a college run by tribes in Montana. The panel held that Indian tribes are entitled to the same interpretative presumption as States, which are excluded from the term “person” under the False Claims Act. The court specifically held that although tribal sovereignty is not “absolute, we continue to recognize Indian tribes as sovereign entities.”
Although the court firmly held that Native American tribes are immune to the False Claims Act, the question of whether colleges run by Native American tribes are similarly immune is not yet settled. The court held that the following factors are appropriate in making a determination: “(1) the method of creation of the [entity]; (2) [its] purpose; (3) [its] structure, ownership, and management, including the amount of control the tribe has over the entit[y]; (4) the tribe’s intent with respect to the sharing of its sovereign immunity; and (5) the financial relationship between the tribe and the entit[y].” The court reversed and remanded to the district court to resolve the question.
What do you think? Should colleges run by Native American tribes be immune to lawsuits under the False Claims Act?
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