People ex rel. Owen v. Miami Nation EnterprisesAnnotate this Case
This case involved the practice of short-term deferred deposit lending, often referred to as “payday” or “cash advance” lending. After the Legislature enacted the California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law (the Law), which limits the size of each loan and the fees that lenders may charge, some deferred deposit lenders sought affiliation with federal recognized Indian tribes, which are generally immune from suit on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. In this case, a pair of federally recognized tribes created affiliated business entities, which provide deferred deposit loans through the internet to borrowers in California under terms that allegedly violated the Law. At issue in this case was whether these tribally affiliated entities were immune from suit as “arms of the tribe.” The Supreme Court clarified the legal standard and burden of proof for establishing arm-of-the-tribe immunity and held that the entities in this case failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that they were entitled to tribal immunity as an arm of its affiliated tribe. Remanded for the trial court to address the issue of whether the parties had the opportunity to fully litigate their claims under that standard.