William Johnson No Longer a Justice
On January 14th, with a unanimous vote, the Isleta Tribal Council appointed Francine Jaramillo and Tony Lucero to serve as Justices of the Isleta Appellate Court. The prior Council already appointed these Justices.
However, the current Council voted to approve them today because the prior Council did not approve the meeting minutes of when they took their vote to appoint them. So, there was no official record of their appointment.
Roshanna Toya-Lucero is also serving as a Justice. According to the Council, it was not necessary to vote on her because her term has not yet expired.
So, the current Justices of the Isleta Appellate Court are:
Tony Lucero; &
This leaves two vacancies on the Appellate Court.
So, the Council is now considering appointing Denise Zuni to fill one of the vacancies. According to the Council, Ms. Zuni is willing to serve as a Justice. However, Ms. Zuni sent a letter to the Council raising concerns about possible conflicts of interests because she is the attorney for the Isleta Pueblo Housing Authority (IPHA).
According to Pablo Padilla, the Tribal Attorney, Ms. Zuni must determine whether it is a conflict of interest for herself. It is not a decision for the Council.
Padilla explained, that Ms. Zuni raised concerns because a prior Council adopted a Resolution, which prohibits elected or appointed officials from representing someone in Tribal Court. So, if Ms. Zuni is appointed to the Court, the Resolution would prohibit her from representing the IPHA or anyone else before the Courts.
Padilla suggested that the Council amend the Resolution to create an exception for Ms. Zuni.
According to Padilla, Ms. Zuni is also concerned about possible conflicts arising, if the Council decides to enact its “Ethics Code.”
During the last term, the Council suspended the “Ethics Code” because it contained numerous flaws. If the Council decides to re-instate the “Ethics Code,” it may create additional conflicts for Ms. Zuni.
The Council plans to call in Ms. Zuni to discuss the issues that she raised in her letter.
Meanwhile, Council Members are concerned that former Chief Justice William Johnson is still acting as a Justice when he no longer has any authority because his term expired and he was not reappointed. The Council plans to remedy this problem by conferring with Johnson at its earliest opportunity.