PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday passed two ordinances that in effect invalidate last month’s Supreme Court ruling removing Speaker Pearlean Revels from her office and banning her from having anything to do with the tribe for at least five years.
The two ordinances, one placing limits on the authority of the tribe’s judicial branch and the second outlining under what circumstances a tribal member can be banished, passed the council during Thursday’s special meeting by votes of 11 to 3 and 11 to 5 respectively.
The action came in response to last month’s ruling by the court that Revels had violated an agreement between Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and the the council requiring the chairman to turn over certain financial records. Revels was accused of illegally taking the documents before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Supreme Court Justices Von Locklear, Tina Dicke, Garth Locklear and Wendell Lowery ruled that Revels breached the agreement worked out by the court. Chief Justice Gary Locklear recused himself.
The justices ruled that Revels be removed from the Tribal Council and banned from participating in any future elections. Revels was up for re-election to her District 3 council seat, but her name will not be on Tuesday’s ballot.
The court also ordered that Revels’ name and photograph be removed from the walls of all tribal properties; that she cannot serve on any tribal board, committee or appointed post; that she is banned from all tribal property or attending tribal-related events; that she must return any keys or access cards to tribal property; that she must return all documents related to her position to the tribal administrator; and that she is prohibited from discussing tribal business with the media.
Proponents of the two ordinances argued Thursday that the Supreme Court had overstepped its judicial authority as outlined in the tribe’s constitution.
“They (justices) went too far … . You can’t tell folks they can’t go to a gathering,” said Charles Bullard, the council’s acting speaker. “They have no authority to do that. As far as they went is ridiculous.”
Louise Mitchell, chairwoman of the council’s Constitution and Ordinance Committee, said that the tribe’s constitution already specifies how elected elected members can be removed from office. That includes recall by the people, or removal by the council because a member has missed three consecutive meetings.
“The Supreme Court has legislated from the bench, which is not its authority,” Mitchell said. “It has ignored the distribution of powers specified in the constitution.”
According to the ordinance adopted Thursday to “establish limits on judicial authority,” its purpose is to “invalidate” actions taken by the Supreme Court that have “ignored the clear language of the Lumbee Constitution regarding distribution of powers and attempted to create tribal law through judicial rulings.” It specifies that the judiciary has no authority to remove an elected official from office, remove a tribal member from tribal rolls, or preclude a tribal member from receiving the benefits of tribal membership.
The second ordinance states that no tribal member can be banished from tribal property, tribal activities, any event sponsored or co-sponsored by the tribe, or have membership privileges suspended without a two-thirds majority vote of the council. It also states that any council member can submit to the full council a petition to banish a tribal member, at which time the member being threatened with banishment has 30 days to appear before the council to “explain or state any factors in mitigation.”
According to the ordinance, council members cannot vote on the petition for banishment until the tribal member has appeared before the council or for 30 days, whichever comes first. If banished, a tribal member may seek reinstatement of tribal rights no sooner than 30 days after the banishment order is issued, and the banishment order can be revoked by an affirmative two-thirds vote of the council.
Proponents of the two ordinances, which become effective in 30 days, say the laws are not specifically designed to deal with issues surrounding Revels.
“We are not trying to make rules for banishing tribal members,” Mitchell said. “We are trying to protect the people. Under the constitution it is the responsibility of the Tribal Council to protect the people.”
Although Revels under the provisions of the ordinances can seek reinstatement of her tribal rights, the new laws will not go into effect before Tuesday’s tribal elections.
Bob Shiles works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian.