Bishop Paiute Tribal Court upholds trespass citations against tribal members amid evidence of Tribal Council wrongdoing
Bishop, CA- In a Court Order issued on July 11, 2018 Judge Bill Kockenmeister upheld trespass citations issued to members of the Napoles family. The Court Order cites the family’s lack of a Grant of Standard Assignment as the basis of the decision. This latest round of citations stems from the April 1, 2017, protest by the family on land south of the Paiute Palace Casino.
In the original round of trespass charges in 2014, the Napoles family won an essentially identical case on appeal by presenting a preponderance of documentary evidence that the land in question was in the lawful possession of family member Janice Geraldine Pasqua. The Intertribal Court of Southern California, which served as the Bishop Tribal Appellate Court, determined in accordance with the Tribe’s Trespass Ordinance and 1962 Land Ordinance that possession of a Standard Grant was not necessary in light of the 1977 Resolutions by the Bishop Tribal Council (BTC) and Owens Valley Board of Trustees (OVBT) approving Mrs. Pasqua for the land in question.
During the June 8, 2018, hearing on the matter, witness testimony and email evidence were entered into the court record outlining two secret meetings that were held while the original trespass case was in process. The email record shows the Bishop Tribal Council held a first meeting in which the tribe’s trespass ordinance was altered to include the requirement of a Standard Grant as the sole proof of rights to land occupancy and possession. Within hours, the BTC convened a second meeting, of the Owens Valley Board of Trustees, and rescinded the 1977 OVBT resolution that granted legal status to family member Janice Pasqua. The emails indicate a time pressure to complete the changes before certain court dates. Neither meeting followed the standard procedures for public notice and transparency. Tribal members were not informed of the changes to the tribe’s law, nor was Mrs. Pasqua, still living at that time, advised that the 1977 resolution granting her rights to the land for nearly 40 years had been rescinded.
The testimony and evidence show that the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council violated Rule 5 of the tribe’s court ordinance, that no government entity shall pass any laws for the purpose of changing the result of a court case in process.
While allowing the testimony and evidence into the court record, Judge Kockenmeister did not address the Tribal Council’s violations of court ordinance and the unlawful changes to the tribe’s laws. Furthermore, he cited the altered ordinance/resolution as basis for his decision to uphold the trespass citations made against the family.
Family member, Ron Napoles stated, “The Tribal Council has repeatedly shown a willingness to engage in dirty tactics against the laws of our tribe for the sole purpose of taking land to build its unsupported casino expansion. Rather than respecting the Rule of Law and tribal family land rights, it has delegitimized the independence of our judiciary, which harms everyone.”
The Napoles family is currently discussing appeal options on this matter with their lawyer.
In a related matter, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has scheduled October 2018 oral arguments in San Francisco for Ronald Napoles v. Destin Rogers pursuant to the Indian Civil Rights Act.
Jack Duran of Rosedale Ca. is representing the Napoles family in tribal court.
Andrea Seielstad of Dayton Ohio is representing the Napoles family in federal court.
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