Tribal Court Judge R. Lar Thomas Facing Removal Proceedings
On Monday, September 21, 2015, Governor Eddie Paul Torres and Chief Judge Rodney Jones, requested the Isleta Tribal Council to begin the removal process of Judge R. Lar Thomas from the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court bench. They made the request during an “executive session,” which is a secret meeting of the Council.
In May 2015, Governor Torres selected Thomas to serve as a Tribal Court Judge for the Pueblo of Isleta. The Isleta Tribal Council confirmed Thomas with a vote of 4 in favor, 2 opposed and 0 abstaining.
Voting yes were Vice-President Michael Allen Lente, Secretary Barbara Sanchez, Fernando Abeita and Ulysses Abeita; voting no were Verna Teller and Betty Lente. President Frank Lujan did not vote because he was absent.
Thomas also serves as a Judge for the Bosque Farms Municipal Court. He was elected in 2012 to serve a four (4) term.
Thomas is an attorney. He is the first non-Indian to be appointed to serve as a Tribal Court Judge for the Pueblo.
Judge Thomas refused to resign from his office. This forced tribal officials to seek removal of Judge Thomas pursuant to Article VII of the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Constitution.
Kaydee Culbertson is the lead attorney advising tribal officials on how to remove Judge Thomas. She is preparing the necessary legal documents against Judge Thomas. Culbertson is one of the “in house” attorneys for the Pueblo. She is the Assistant Attorney to Pablo H. Padilla, Esq.
Tribal officials have not yet publicly disclosed the specific allegations against Judge Thomas that would justify removal proceedings.
To remove a tribal official from public office, Article VII, Section 2 of the Constitution requires:
1. That the official be found guilty of a misdemeanor, in any court, “involving misconduct reflecting on the dignity and integrity of the tribal government;”
2. That the Tribal Council finds a tribal official guilty of “malfeasance in office,” or “gross neglect of duty.”
Thereafter, the Council must follow the remaining constitutional procedures for removal.
It is now up to Chief Judge Rodney Jones to decide whether Judge Thomas may continue hearing cases while the removal process is pending. Judge Thomas must appear before the Isleta Tribal Council on Monday, October 5, 2015, to respond to whatever charges have been raised against him.