Charges dismissed; Tribal land dispute continues

Press release from Rick Napoles

Bishop, CA- For the second time, Bishop Paiute Tribal Court Judge Bill Kockenmeister dismissed trespass citations brought by the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council against tribal members of the Warlie, Williams and Napoles families. This is the latest development in a multi-year land dispute between Warlie family descendants who have enjoyed decades of continuous use and occupancy rights to land adjacent to the tribe’s casino and the Tribal Council’s claim to the land for casino development. According to Judge Kockenmeister’s court order of March 25, 2017, the defendants have not violated the conditions of the Nuisance and Trespass citations. Also, Kockenmeister indicated in court that he would not continue Temporary Protection Orders issued last November, prohibiting the family from entering the disputed land.

From November 19 through 21, 2016, Tribal Police issued multiple trespass and nuisance citations to Rick, Mark, Ron and James Napoles and Wade Williams. These family members were reconstructing a livestock fence, which had been demolished as a result of the Bishop Tribal Council’s forced taking of the land in 2014.  The family took action to reoccupy the land after receiving consecutive reversals of trespass charges from the tribe’s Appellate Court on previous 2014 trespass citations, and the eventual Dismissal with Prejudice in October of 2016 by the Bishop Tribal Court. The family has had legal rights to this land for over 70 years.

In addition to the November citations, Judge Kockenmeister convened a special hearing on November 22, 2016 where he issued Temporary Protection Orders to members of the family. The TPO’s threatened federal prosecution under the Violence Against Women Act, which had no relevance to the trespass citations and placed severe limits on the family’s liberty. Kockenmeister’s court action is tantamount to the family members being convicted of crimes including trespass and effectively ejected and restrained them from the family’s land without Due Process or Equal Protection of Law according to a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed in the U.S. District Court by the family’s attorneys. Judge Bill Kockenmeister and Bishop Paiute Tribal Council members Deston Rogers, Bill Vega, Earleen Williams, Jeff Romero and Brian Poncho are listed as Parties in the Federal Petition.

The family members view this latest dismissal as another victory, noting that this is the second dismissal on the same land and trespass matter. “It calls into question the validity of the citations and shows an obvious reluctance of the Tribal Council and Judge Kockenmeister to allow a final hearing on the matter of occupancy and possession of the land,” spokesman for the family Rick Napoles stated. A final hearing would not be advantageous to the Tribal Council as they have been unable to provide the court with legal evidence of their rights to the land.

The March 21, 2017 court date was to be a status hearing at which the judge was expected to addressed the family’s motion for the judge to recuse himself from the case, a motion to dismiss the case under the family’s set of conditions and to confirm the selection of a new tribal appellate court. However, Judge Kockenmeister sidestepped those issues by dismissing the case. He also eliminated the basis for an appellate court ruling on various appeal motions, and profoundly affected an ongoing federal case in which he is a key party. By dismissing a case in which his past involvement was under federal scrutiny, he provided himself with judicial relief but left all other parties with no legal solution.

To date the family has amassed a total of 33 trespass and nuisance citations with no convictions.  The Warlie family and their lawyers are currently reviewing options for action locally and in federal court.

The Napoles and Williams families are represented by Andrea Seielstad, University of Dayton School of Law- Dayton Ohio and Jack Duran, Duran Law Office-Roseville California

 

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