Tribal Member Banished from Hoopa Reservation
By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune
A written court order of exclusion was signed, sealed and delivered on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 by pro tem judge to the Hoopa Tribal Court, Christine Williams.
For the first time in Hoopa Valley Tribal history, a Hoopa Tribal member, Arthur Pliny Jones, was excluded using the Tribe’s exclusion ordinance, Title 5. The ordinance has been used before, but never against one of the Tribe’s own members.
In February of 2012 Jones pleaded guilty to transportation and sales of a controlled substance in Superior Court, offenses the Tribal Court found to be grounds for exclusion.
Jones’ legal counsel, Greg Rael argued that Jones’ previous offenses, prior to the 2012 conviction, were too old to be considered “repeated commission of a crime” as defined by the exclusion ordinance. Jones’ previous convictions date back 19 years in both Humboldt and Trinity Counties.
“The court is not persuaded by Respondent’s arguments,” Williams wrote in her order of exclusion. “The language in Title 5 Section I (1) is plain, “Repeated commission of a crime…” There is no language indicating that “a crime” be the exact same crime. There is no language limited how far back in time Petitioner can look in a person’s criminal history to establish that commission of a crime has been “repeated.””
Rael filed an appeal on Jones’ behalf on Oct. 25 that lists four reasons they disagree with the order, the first being the court’s decision to deny Jones’ request for a jury trial. During the final hearing, Rael argued that there was some dispute whether or not the large gap in time between Jones’ convictions fit within the Title 5 definition of repeated commission of a crime.
“A jury would help resolve some of those questions,” Rael said during the hearing.
Rebecca McMahon, representing the Petitioner, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said the respondents had two opportunities to request a jury trial and did not do so.
“A jury trial would fly in the face of the exclusion ordinance and the intention of the ordinance to expedite these types of hearings,” McMahon said. “There is no time for a jury trial.”
After listening to both arguments, Williams denied the request for a jury trial.
McMahon submitted evidence to the court, a packet of mostly certified court records from Jones’ previous convictions, including records from an assault with a deadly weapon conviction in Trinity County in 1988 and a drug related conviction in Humboldt County in 1989.
“The problem I see with their arguments [petitioner] is they are stretching the ordinance to apply to Mr. Jones,” Rael said. “…How do we take this old record and wrap it on a more recent occurrence to argue that he’s guilty of repeated commission of a crime?”
Rael also argued that the Tribe’s 2009 Tribal Council Resolution was an illegal amendment to Title 5 because it did not pass through the Tribe’s Legislative Procedures Act—a process for public input on major decisions—and therefore void. His argument did not prevail.
“The resolution is not amending the ordinance,” McMahon said. “The resolution really just clarifies the ordinance and puts drug dealers on notice that they will be prioritized for exclusion.”
Although the petitioner argued for permanent exclusion, the judge instead handed down an indefinite exclusion. Under Title 5, Jones is allowed to apply to the court for an amendment or revocation of the exclusion order.
“We agree with the Respondent that, based on the language of Title 5, the court lacks the authority to issue an order permanently excluding anyone from the reservation,” Williams’ written order reads.
Jones also requested special conditions under which he asked to be allowed to travel to and from his residence on Pine Creek Road to leave the reservation. The court denied his request.
Jones’ appeal lists the following complaints: 1.) The court should have granted my request for a jury trial. 2.) The court should have allowed me to present character evidence. 3.) The court should have found both Title 5, Sections I (1) and (4) to be void for vagueness. 4.) The court should not have applied Title 5, Section I(1) to my case due to the age of my prior convictions.
It was not clear at press time how the court would proceed with the appeal process.