NM Court: Tribes Protected From Lawsuits Off Reservations

New Mexico – The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled tribal sovereignty protects tribes and pueblos from lawsuits involving lands they own outside their reservations.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the ruling came in a dispute between Laguna Pueblo and a rancher over 640 acres in the Mount Taylor foothills of northwestern New Mexico.

Cibola County rancher Robert Armijo contends he bought the property in 1994 from a land grant and had a warranty deed to prove it.

Laguna Pueblo contends the parcel is part of 8,300 acres it bought in 2008 from Silver Dollar Ranch LLC.

The Appeals Court ruled in December that a state district judge lacked jurisdiction to decide who owns the property because the pueblo enjoys immunity from lawsuits even if the land is outside its boundaries.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.