This Friday (December 15) expect retiring judge Vincent T. Lechowick to order the dissolution and sale of the disputed Pinoleville Tribal land as his final act as a Mendo judge. Lechowick did not run for re-election and is mercifully finito January 1st, not that we won't be seeing him often as a “visiting judge,” the means by which Lechowick's Superior Court colleagues routinely duck out on controversial cases.
For years now, the Mendocino County Superior court has been foisting Lechowick off on the unsuspecting. After all, the guy's got the robe on and, judged solely by appearances, doesn't seem to be as lethally stupid, as low-down mean and as nuts as he in fact is. Rather than deal with the thorny case of who is a tribal member and who owns the Pinoleville land, Lechowick seems intent on directing the profits of the sale of the Pinoleville tribe's to people arbitrarily designated as “beneficiaries.” As a footnote to Lechowick’s pending order, he gives the Pinoleville Tribe, the present and apparently legitimate owner of the property — and which doesn’t want to sell it — the “right to purchase [the land] at appraised value.” Even the limited Lechowick has got to know the tribe doesn't have the money to buy back their own land at the current land prices brought by acreage at the north edge of booming Ukiah.
The looming Pinoleville swindle came to court when Priscilla Hunter, chairperson of the Coyote Valley Tribe (now a wealthy gaming tribe, just up 101 from Pinoleville) hired the powerful SF corporate law firm of Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro to dispute ownership of the Pinoleville property. Hunter can pay the big-buck lawyer fees Pillsbury et al demands, and for its part, the Pillsbury thugs get to delude themselves into thinking they're doing good work on behalf of “an oppressed people.” It appears that — so far at least — Hunter, Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro are succeeding in the legal logistics of finishing the theft of Pinoleville begun by Hunter and expedited by Lechowick even though the Pinoleville tribe has a Mendo court ruling dating back to 1909 certifying the Pinoleville Tribe’s ownership.
Hunter’s nebulous back door claim to Pinoleville hinges upon her challenges to tribal membership and which Indians are “members” of which tribes and who’s a descendant of who — an historically difficult task which always is certain to put tribes at each other's throats. And especially hypocritical of Ms. Hunter who has several jive white hippies living off Indian gaming revenues seem to think they're Indians themselves and thus entitled to whatever gambling proceeds trickle down on their stoned heads. Under Lechowick’s crooked, crooked decree, Hunter’s tribal members (Hunter’s tribe) will get a big share of the land sale proceeds and may end up with the property as well, since they’ll have the sale proceeds and can easily supplement this money with gaming money. Pinoleville's true owners, some of whom live on the land now and whose ancestors are buried there, don't have casino money or any money at all to buy back their homeland — certainly not at its “appraised value.”
The Pinoleville Tribe is a non-gaming tribe without access to Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro (who also stands to get a big fee off the land sale). The Pinoleville tribe simply asserts that its tribal sovereignty gives it the right to determine its own members, unchallenged by US courts — and those members are not Priscilla Hunter, et al., and her Coyote Valley tribe.
And guess who had a post-judge job ap in with Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro? Judge Lechowick! When Lechowick discovered that PMS was “substituted in” to represent Hunter he withdrew his job application, but didn't remove himself from the case. Judge Lechowick had previously issued important rulings on the Pinoleville case that went against Pinoleville before he withdrew his job application with them.
Meanwhile, Priscilla Hunter has written to CalFed bank identifying herself as “Trustee Pinoleville Indian Trust” seeking to “recoup escheated funds from two accounts taken/transferred from the Pinoleville Indian Trust account.” (“Escheated” is an archaic old English legal term which roughly means abandoned without heir or legal claim and left to the State of California — a word Hunter probably doesn’t use every day as she goes about the nasty business of escheating Pinoleville out of its ancestral home.) Hunter’s September 15, 2000, letter to the bank makes no mention of her role as Tribal Chairman of the tribe a couple of miles up the road, the Coyote Valley Tribe, which is contesting ownership of the Pinoleville property. The Pinoleville tribe says Hunter was once one of its trustees, but is no longer. The funds in question amount to about $22,000.
Persons interested in watching a breathtakingly sleazy judge expedite the theft of the Pinoleville Tribe's land, thus perhaps leveraging his Mendocino County judicial “learning experience” into a job with a grateful big shot Frisco law firm are urged to show up at the Friday, December 15 hearing at the Courthouse in Ukiah at 9am.