Lawrence “Larry” Lucero will Serve as Pro Tem Judge
On the morning of January 8, 2015, the Isleta Tribal Council addressed the issue of whether Renee Torres and Lawrence Lucero were lawfully seated as Judges of the Isleta Tribal Court.
The Council brought in several attorneys to help them deal with the issue. The attorneys were: Pablo Padilla, Kaydee Culbertson and David Mielke.
Padilla and Culbertson are full time employees of the Pueblo. They’re the “in house” attorneys. Mielke is not a full time employee. He’s on contract with the Pueblo through his law firm. His firm only addresses legal matters as requested by the Council and the Governors.
The Council discussed whether Torres and Lucero were lawfully seated as Judges.
The Council asked Governor Eddie Paul Torres how he wanted to deal with the situation. He replied, I’m not touching this with a 10 foot pole. This is why I have my Lieutenants and I gave them this responsibility. I’m not getting involved because my daughter is involved. I will respect whatever decision that the Council makes.
Secretary Barbara Sanchez felt that Renee Torres was lawfully in place. All other Council Members were not sure.
The attorneys avoided answering the question directly. Attorney Padilla, however, stated there is an “easy fix” for this. You can “extend” their terms.
Council Member Verna Teller doubted whether Padilla’s solution was really a solution. She did not want the lawful authority of the Judges to be challenged or attacked.
Council Member Betty Lente told Padilla, “You dropped the ball.” She was very displeased with how Attorney Padilla advised the Council, which led to the problem in the first place.
Attorney Mielke disagreed with Padilla’s recommendation. He suggested that Council remove all doubt or possibilities for anyone debating or challenging the lawful authority of the Judges by:
1. Waiving the ordinance that established the term limits for the judges;
2. Having the Lt. Governors present their nominations for judges to the Council once again; &
3. Having the Council take another vote on confirming the judges.
So, to resolve the controversy, Lt. Governor Chewiwi reluctantly asked the Council to confirm Lawrence Lucero and Renee Torres as Pro Tem Judges for 60 days and to waive the ordinance establishing the term limits.
Vice-President Michael Allen Lente made a motion to waive the Judges ordinance and confirm Lawrence Lucero as a Pro Tem Judge for 60 days. Betty Lente seconded. The motion carried with 7 voting yes, 0 voting no & 0 abstaining.
Secretary Sanchez then made a motion to waive the Judges ordinance and confirm Renee Torres as a Pro Tem Judge for 60 days. Vice-President Lente seconded. 4 voted yes, 3 voted no & 0 abstained.
Voting Yes: President Frank Lujan, Vice-President Lente, Secretary Sanchez and Ulysses Abeita.
Voting No: Verna Teller, Betty Lente & Fernando Abeita.
Sanchez declared that the motion carried.
Teller asked Attorney Padilla whether the motion carried because the Constitution requires a 2/3 majority vote. Padilla replied, that the motion did not carry.
This means that Renee Torres is no longer a Tribal Court Judge and Lawrence Lucero is confirmed to serve for 60 days. The Governor now has 60 days to find alternative nominees to present to the Council for confirmation to serve as Judges on the Isleta Tribal Court.
After the vote, Lt. Governor Chewiwi stated that he was very disappointed with the Council’s decision. He said, we had a very well qualified individual, legally trained. He felt that their decision was a blow to all young tribal members that go out and get an education and come back to work for the Tribe.
President Frank Lujan replied, I have always supported our tribal members getting jobs with our Tribe and I always will. But, the Governor has not always followed that policy. So, it goes back and forth.
Governor Eddie Paul Torres responded that he relies on his Human Resources Department to decide who is qualified for jobs. Governor Torres said, we all know that this happened because of me. But, it’s okay because I’m not hurt by it and my daughter was not hurt either because she has the qualifications to get a job on the outside. All you did, was hurt the Tribe because you crippled the Court.
Council Member Betty Lente replied, my decision had nothing to do with you Governor. I represent the community and all I’ve heard is negatives [about Judge Renee Torres]. And, it’s a conflict of interest.
Governor Torres responded, well, I hope that the Council is fair and uses the same approach on others.
Council Member Teller explained that she voted no because she was troubled by so many people going before the prior Council complaining about – how Judge Torres was treating them.
Governor Torres said, I accept your decision and I don’t have any problem with it.
President Frank Lujan ended further discussion. He told the Council that they needed to move forward with other business.