Saturday, September 30, 2023
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15-Year Jamul Indian Court Fight Dismissed

(CN) - The U.S. Court of Federal Claims dismissed the final two claims in a 15-year, "Rubik's Cube" lawsuit involving internecine battles over land and power in the Jamul Indian Village in San Diego County.

The court found the remaining issues redundant and moot, and urged the plaintiffs not to "defy their fate" again.

The 15-year "campaign of legal challenges, perpetuated in the face of repeated dismissals and adverse judgments on the merits ... has already wasted enormous administrative and judicial resources," Judge Lawrence Block wrote in dismissing the latest attempts by Jamul residents Walter J. Rosales, Karen Toggery and others to invalidate tribal elections that occurred in the early 1990s and to assert ownership over two parcels of tribal land.

The Jamul village was founded in 1981 after 20 people petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs to organize as "half-blood" Jamul Indians, according to the ruling. The village's original constitution required village members to have no less than "1/2 degree California Indian blood quantum."

In 1994, a village faction led by then-Vice Chairwoman Jane Dumas held an election to recall and replace four village officials who had been elected in 1992.

But the agency refused to uphold the recall election because the Dumas faction had failed to comply with procedural requirements. In 1995, the village held two separate elections, resulting in two different factions claiming authority.

In the latest lawsuit, Jamul residents challenged the validity of those elections and the legitimacy of the village membership. Judge Block wrote that the claims court had only considered the latest amended complaints "one last time in each case, in the hope of persuading plaintiffs of the inexorable futility of their obstinate 15-year campaign" (Italics in original).

Also at issue is a 4.66-acre portion of the original Mexican land grant of Rancho Jamul, which the village graded and built on. The plaintiffs argued that the federal government had failed to prevent the "inadvertent discoveries of human remains" on the land under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and therefore owed them as the beneficial owners.

Judge Block ruled that this claim, even if legally valid, is barred by a six-year statute of limitations.

Moreover, the federal government could not "adequately represent the interests of the village," because the village had not waived its sovereign immunity, and the court lacked the power to compel it to join the defense, Block said.

"The court concludes that it must dismiss the action due to the absence of the village, a necessary and indispensible part," Block wrote.

He ordered the plaintiffs to pay the court costs based on their "history of repeating the same claims across multiple suits and venues, and their pattern, in these proceedings, of non-responsive filings, of repeated noncompliance with the rules of this court, of poor citation practices, and of wholesale copying of previous filings in other venues that were dismissed with prejudice."

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