Tenth Circuit Court Rules Ex-Employee Suit Against Ute Tribe Will Not Be Heard
By Kristin Forbis, Jan 7, 2022
A ruling issued on Thursday determined that Utah courts cannot hear a suit brought by an ex-employee against the Ute Indian Tribe. Lynn D. Becker had worked as a manager and marketing specialist for the Ute Tribe’s Energy and Minerals Department and his suit argued that the tribe had not kept their side of an agreement to pay him a percentage of revenues he brought in. The Ute Indian Tribe issued a press release on Thursday praising the court’s Thursday decision. “This is an important victory for tribal sovereignty—not just for the Ute Tribe, but for Indian tribes across the United States,” shares Shaun Chapoose, Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee and Uncompahgre Band Representative. “The Ute Tribe appreciates the Tenth Circuit’s strong endorsement of tribal sovereignty reflected in the Court’s ruling.” The tribe’s press release stated: The Tenth Circuit explained that when a case is brought against an Indian tribe or its members and the case “arises from conduct” on the Tribe’s reservation, state courts lack jurisdiction to decide the case “absent clear congressional authorization,” citing numerous prior United States Supreme Court and Tenth Circuit rulings to that effect…The Tenth Circuit also agreed with the Ute Tribe that the Tribe was entitled not merely to a preliminary injunction, but to a permanent injunction against the Utah state court proceeding…The litigation between the Tribe and Becker has been ongoing for ten years in federal, state, and tribal forums. Thursday’s decision marks the Ute Tribe’s fourth consecutive victory over Mr. Becker in the Tenth Circuit in the past eight years.