by Cynthia A. Walsh
This time, the BIA seems to be after blood!
UPDATE (July 7, 2000) On Friday, June 30, 2000, I spoke with US staff attorney Michael Hegerty of
the Denver US Attorney's office. He had contacted Ms. Judy Canty Martin in June and stated to her
that he was asked by a federal judge to assist her in appealing her denied injunction to federal
court of appeals. I called him to ask how it was that he got involved in assisting Judy and to
confirm that she would fully accept his legal assistance. A bit sheepish sounding on the telephone
he stated with some prodding from me that he represented the BIA and not Judy. I told him that that
made much more sense to me but that Judy was under the impression that he was going to provide her
with legal counsel. He did not offer to correct this mistake in representation issue to Judy. Nor
did he advise me that the day before he had submitted a motion to vacate the July 11, 2000 pre-trial
hearing between Judy and the defendants (Franklin Keel and Kevin Gover). I told him that Judy was
still planning to attend the pre-trial hearing as set by the judge in May. He told me that he
thought that it would be canceled and I asked why. He said such hearings are "normally" canceled.
His clouded statement made no sense. He was functioning under the assuance that the pre-trial
hearing was canceled but he had had no word from the court that it was in fact canceled.
He did not at any time in our conversation inform me that he had submitted a motion to vacate the pre-trial hearing. Hidden in his motion to the federal judge was a statement that Judy Canty Martin had agreed to vacate the pre-trial hearing. This statement is false. Judy Canty Martin did not at any time agree to vacate the pre-trial hearing and was as stated above intending to appear in federal court for this pre-trial hearing.
I obtained a copy of this motion on Thursday, July 6, 2000 and called the court in Denver. I was informed that the judge had approved the motion on July 6, 2000.
Mr. Hegerty informed me that he had spoken with an attorney representing the BIA in the Wade et al vs. Blue et al federal law suit in South Carolina federal court. He couldn't recall the attorney's name nor even the city that this peer professional was located. He also claimed that in the two months he had been assigned to the case that he had never become familar with the case he was assigned (ie Judy Canty Martin vs. B.I.A.).
Mr. Hegerty suggested that even if the BIA published the Catawba Final Membership Roll, we would still have legal recourse since a federal judge could find for petitioners and reverse the roll. This is of course true, but the problem is that this matter could be solved without litigation. I explained to him the legal problems of handling this roll in such a sloppy manner since the BIA knew of the legal challenges being raised in Colorado as well as in South Carolina. He stated again that if a federal judge ruled in favor for us, the roll could be reversed and that the Court would simply hold the Catawba Nation liable for any monetary damages found for us. I was stunned that this was deemed a solution to a problem which was created and/or supported by BIA action. I informed this attorney that it is quite likely that there are no funds available for such a legal recovery, but more importantly than that is that we would be asking for the federal government to be held liable, and not the Catawba Nation. It is our belief that the BIA and the Eastern Regional BIA Offices are responsible for the harms inflicted upon the public by their actions and inactions. That the BIA has known of significant violations of the US Constitutional rights violations by BIA employees against good faith petitioners and the BIA should be held fully accountable for these harms. The BIA had a duty to publish legally complying tribal rolls but it has not done so. The BIA had final approval authority and hence should be held solely accountable forthe problems with the defective roll.
Hegerty has agreed to present a settlement offer to the Defendants regarding our issues. We are hoping to have such a settlement offer ready in the next few weeks. Based upon the historic and recent actions of the BIA in this matter, at Catawba, and with the South Carolina federal court -- I don't believe that a settlement will take place. However, we will make every good faith effort to have this matter resolved without litigation. We still need a Senate Committee Indian Affairs Investigation!!!!!