Can Soverign Immunity Be Extended to a Tribal Revenue Clerk If the Suit Is Against the Tribe and Not Its Officer ?
Snow v. Quinault Indian Nation (9th Cir. 1983) 709 F.2d 1319held immunity extended to a "Tribal Revenue Clerk." (Snow, supra, 709 F.2d at p. 1322.)
As defendants point out, the court did not condition immunity on a showing that the clerk occupied a high-level position within the tribe.
Snow, however, was an action challenging a tax on business activities within the tribe's reservation.
There was no claim that the clerk was liable in her individual capacity; she was sued only in her official capacity. (Ibid.)
The court therefore held the case came within the rule established in Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Corp. (1949) 337 U.S. 682, 688 69 S. Ct. 1457, 1460-1461, 93 L. Ed. 1628 (hereafter Larson) that sovereign immunity may not be avoided by nominally suing an individual when the suit is, in substance, to compel action by the sovereign. (Snow, citing Larson.)
Because it involved, in substance, a suit against the tribe rather than its officer, Snow cannot be read as establishing that individual immunity attaches without regard to the nature of a tribal officer's official position and duties.