Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

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Chief Judge Rodney Jones Resigns

Rodney Jones resigned from his position as Chief Judge of the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court. According to Isleta Council Members, Jones suddenly decided that he wanted to spend more time with his family and his business. Council members were surprised by the resignation.

Governor Eddie Paul Torres appointed Jones to serve as Chief Judge for the 2015-2016 term. Initially, Governor Torres tried to appoint his daughter, Renee Torres, as Chief Judge. Torres needed five (5) votes from the Tribal Council to confirm his daughter to the bench.

The Council, however, would not confirm Torres to the bench after voting twice on the issue. Governor Torres was angry about the Council’s decision. He accused the Council of crippling the Tribal Court. Several weeks later, Governor Torres selected Rodney Jones as his appointment for Chief Judge.

Controversy soon arose under Jones’ watch of the Tribal Court when Associate Judge R. Lar Thomas tried to report DWI convictions in Tribal Court to the State of New Mexico. Chief Judge Jones directed Thomas not to report the convictions. Thomas refused to comply with the directive because Isleta Tribal law required the Pueblo to report the convictions to the State.

This caused the Isleta Tribal Council to quickly change Isleta Tribal law to eliminate the requirement to report DWI convictions to the State.

Amid this controversy, Chief Judge Jones requested Thomas to resign. Thomas refused.

Thereafter, on September 21, 2015, Jones requested the Isleta Tribal Council to remove Associate Judge R. Lar Thomas from the bench. Jones accused Thomas of malfeasance.

Jones claimed that Judge Thomas made several threatening comments toward tribal attorney Pablo H. Padilla. Jones claimed that the comments arose to malfeasance in office.

The Isleta Tribal Council agreed and quickly removed Thomas from the bench. The Council violated the Isleta Tribal Constitution by failing to follow the removal process.

Judge Thomas submitted his own claims against Chief Judge Jones to the Council. Thomas reported that the Chief Judge gave in to political pressure from a tribal official about a child support case and that Jones indicated that he would have the outcome of the case changed.

Thomas also notified the Council that he witnessed Chief Judge Jones giving massages, neck rubs and tickling female court personnel. According to Thomas, Jones also made sexist jokes and used extremely offensive language in front of court personnel and employees of other departments.

The Isleta Tribal Council, however, did not bother to investigate the claims made by Judge Lar Thomas.

Later, Thomas sent a letter to the Council threatening to file a lawsuit against tribal officials in federal court for his removal. But, Thomas did not follow through with his threat.

The Isleta Tribal Court is now left with Associate Judge Vincent Knight Sr. and Associate Judge LaDonna Giron. Neither judge is a member of the Pueblo. Their term of office expires at the end of 2016.

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What are your thoughts?

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