On August 12, 2011, the Isleta Tribal Council adopted Resolution # 2011-049. This resolution enacts an ordinance, which establishes the Isleta Appellate Court. It provides “terms of office” for Justices of the Appellate Court. This ordinance also defines some powers of the Appellate Court.
This law states:
“[t]he term of office for each Appellate Court Justice shall be for two (2) years or until another Justice is appointed and shall coincide with the term of office of the appointing Tribal Council. Appointments of the Appellate Court Justices shall be made by Tribal Council between December 1 and December 31 of each year that follows a regular election of Tribal Council.” Article III, Section 5(1).
So, according to this law, the Council can only appoint Justices between December 1 and December 31 of each year that follows a regular election. This past year (2012), the Pueblo conducted a regular election of the Council. This means that this Council can only appoint Justices in December of this current year unless there is a vacancy.
But, this Council did not do this. Instead, the Council removed Justice Francine Jaramillo so they could appoint Roseanna Toya-Lucero. Justice Jaramillo’s term did not expire until December 2013. So, the Council violated its own law by removing Justice Jaramillo to appoint Toya-Lucero. Why?
This is an important question because the Council loves to pass resolutions, laws, policies, procedures, rules, regulations etc. The Council passes their laws and they demand that we obey their laws whether we like them or not. Yet, the Council ignores the very laws that they adopt. This is very dangerous to all tribal members.
In this case, the Council is taking action to remove a specific Justice of the Appellate Court. They are taking this action in violation of their own law. Why? Is it because this Justice made a ruling against the Council in a prior case? Is it because there is an upcoming case, that, they do not want that particular Justice to hear? Or, was the “new” Council simply unaware of the law? Finally, why did the Council hide in executive session to discuss appointments to the Appellate Court?
It is important to ask these questions because the Council is not above the law. When the Council adopts a law, they need to follow it. Or, the Council should repeal the law or change it. They should not disregard and violate the law to accomplish their hidden political objectives.
The last Council routinely violated the Isleta Tribal Constitution. They had no regard for OUR Constitution, which is the primary law that protects you and your families from tribal government officials. Is this Council walking in the same footsteps as the prior Council?
By Christopher Abeita