January 9, 2017
Brian and Michelle Lewis were driving on a Connecticut
interstate when they were struck from behind by a vehicle
driven by respondent William Clarke, a Mohegan Tribal Gaming
Authority employee, who was transporting Mohegan Sun Casino
patrons. The Lewises sued Clarke in his individual capacity
in state court. Clarke moved to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that because he was an
employee of the Gaming Authority-an arm of the Mohegan Tribe
entitled to sovereign immunity-and was acting within the
scope of his employment at the time of the accident, he was
similarly entitled to sovereign immunity against suit. He
also argued, in the alternative, that he should prevail
because the Gaming Authority was bound by tribal law to
indemnify him. The trial court denied Clarke's motion,
but the Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed, holding that
tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit because Clarke was
acting within the scope of his employment when the accident
occurred. It did not consider whether Clarke should be
entitled to sovereign immunity based on the indemnification
1. In a
suit brought against a tribal employee in his individual
capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real party in
interest and the tribe's sovereign immunity is not
implicated. Pp. 5-8.
the context of lawsuits against state and federal employees
or entities, courts look to whether the sovereign is the real
party in interest to determine whether sovereign immunity
bars the suit, see Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25. A
defendant in an official-capacity action-where the relief
sought is only nominally against the official and in fact is
against the official's office and thus the sovereign
itself-may assert sovereign immunity. Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167. But an officer in an
individual-capacity action- which seeks "to impose
individual liability upon a government officer for actions
taken under color of state law, " Hafer, 502
U.S., at 25- may be able to assert personal immunity
defenses but not sovereign immunity, id., at 30-31.
The Court does not reach Clarke's argument that he is
entitled to the personal immunity defense of official
immunity, which Clarke raised for the first time on appeal.
Applying these general rules in the context of tribal
sovereign immunity, it is apparent that they foreclose
Clarke's sovereign immunity defense. This action arises
from a tort committed by Clarke on a Connecticut interstate
and is simply a suit against Clarke to recover for his
personal actions. Clarke, not the Gaming Authority, is the
real party in interest. The State Supreme Court extended
sovereign immunity for tribal employees beyond what
common-law sovereign immunity principles would recognize for
either state or federal employees. Pp. 7-8.
indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend
sovereign immunity to individual employees who would
otherwise not fall under its protective cloak. Pp. 8-12.
conclusion follows naturally from the principles discussed
above and previously applied to the different question
whether a state instrumentality may invoke the State's
immunity from suit even when the Federal Government has
agreed to indemnify that instrumentality against adverse
judgments, Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S.
425. There, this Court held that the indemnification
provision did not divest the state instrumentality of
Eleventh Amendment immunity, and its analysis turned on where
the potential legal liability lay, not from whence
the money to pay the damages award ultimately came. Here, the
Connecticut courts exercise no jurisdiction over the Tribe or
Gaming Authority, and their judgments will not bind the Tribe
or its instrumentalities in any way. Moreover,
indemnification is not a certainty, because Clarke will not
be indemnified should the Gaming Authority determine that he
engaged in "wanton, reckless, or malicious"
activity. Mohegan Tribe Code §4-52. Pp. 8-10.
Courts have extended sovereign immunity to private healthcare
insurance companies under certain circumstances, but those
cases rest on the proposition that the fiscal intermediaries
are essentially state instrumentalities, and Clarke offers no
persuasive reason to depart from precedent and treat a
lawsuit against an individual employee as one against a state
instrumentality. Similarly, this Court has never held that a
civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against a state
officer in his individual capacity implicates the Eleventh
Amendment and a State's sovereign immunity from suit.
Finally, this Court's conclusion that indemnification
provisions do not alter the real-party-in-interest analysis
for sovereign immunity purposes is consistent with the
practice that applies in the contexts of diversity of
citizenship and joinder. Pp. 10-12. 320 Conn.706, 135 A. 3d
677, reversed and remanded.
OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CONNECTICUT
SOTOMAYOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
ROBERTS, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ.,
joined. Thomas, J., and GlNSBURG, J., filed opinions
concurring in the judgment. GOR-SUCH, J., took no part in the
consideration or decision of the case.
tribes are generally entitled to immunity from suit. This
Court has considered the scope of that immunity in a number
of circumstances. This case presents an ordinary negligence
action brought against a tribal employee in state court under
state law. We granted certiorari to resolve whether an Indian
tribe's sovereign immunity bars individual-capacity
damages actions against tribal employees for torts committed
within the scope of their employment and for which the
employees are indemnified by the tribe.
that, in a suit brought against a tribal employee in his
individual capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real
party in interest and the tribe's sovereign immunity is
not implicated. That an employee was acting within the scope
of his employment at the time the tort was committed is not,
on its own, sufficient to bar a suit against that employee on
the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. We hold further that
an indemnification provision does not extend a tribe's
sovereign immunity where it otherwise would not reach.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut traces its lineage
back centuries. Originally part of the Lenni Le-nape, the
Tribe formed the independent Mohegan Tribe under the
leadership of Sachem Uncas in the early 1600's. M.
Fawcett, The Lasting of the Mohegans 7, 11-13 (1995). In
1994, in accordance with the petition procedures established
by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Tribe attained federal
recognition. See 59 Fed. Reg. 12140 (1994); Mohegan
Const., Preamble and Art. II.
means of maintaining its economic self-sufficiency, the Tribe
entered into a Gaming Compact with the State of Connecticut
pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 102 Stat. 2467,
25 U.S.C. §2701 et seq. The compact authorizes
the Tribe to conduct gaming on its land, subject to certain
conditions including establishment of the Gaming Disputes
Court. See 59 Fed. Reg. 65130 (approving the Tribal-State
Compact Between the Mohegan Indian Tribe and the State of
Connecticut (May 17, 1994)); Mohegan Const., Art. XIII,
§2; Mohegan Tribe Code 3-248(a) (Supp. 2016). The
Mohegan Tribal Gaming ...