Inyo County v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of Bishop Community of Bishop Colony, 538 U.S. 701, 7 (2003)

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Cite as: 538 U. S. 701 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

On November 22, 2000, the District Court, on defendants' motion, dismissed the Tribe's complaint. Tribal sovereign immunity, the court held, did not categorically preclude the search and seizure of the Casino's personnel records. Taking into account the competing interests of the State and the Tribe, the court concluded that, "[i]n the interest of a fair and uniform application of California's criminal law, state officials should be able to execute search warrant[s] against the tribe and tribal property." App. to Pet. for Cert. 62a. The court also held that the District Attorney and the Sheriff had qualified immunity from suit in their individual capacities. Id., at 57a-58a.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court's judgment dismissing the action. "[E]xecution of a search warrant against the Tribe," the Court of Appeals said, "interferes with 'the right of reservation Indians to make their own laws and be ruled by them.' " 291 F. 3d, at 558 (quoting Williams v. Lee, 358 U. S. 217, 220 (1959)). In the appellate court's view, the District Court should not have "balanced the interests at stake" to determine whether the warrant was enforceable. 291 F. 3d, at 559. This Court's precedent, the Ninth Circuit said, advanced "a more categorical approach denying state jurisdiction . . . over a tribe absent a waiver by the tribe or a clear grant of authority by Congress." Ibid. (citing Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Chickasaw Nation, 515 U. S. 450, 458 (1995)).

"[E]ven if a balancing test is the appropriate legal framework," the Court of Appeals added, "the balance of interests favors a ruling for the Tribe." 291 F. 3d, at 559. The Tribe's privacy policies regarding employee records "promote tribal [self-government] interests," the Ninth Circuit reasoned; notably, those policies fostered "a trusting relationship with tribal members," and "affect[ed] the Casino, the Tribe's predominant source of economic development revenue." Ibid. The appeals court recognized the State's countervailing "interest in investigating potential welfare


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