Impeachment in Cherokee

Impeachment stalled

Impeachment stalled

Tribal Council will have to change the date set for Principal Chief Patrick Lambert’s impeachment hearing for the third time — if, that is, the Cherokee Tribal Court allows the impeachment to move forward.

The original date was April 20, but a lawsuit that Lambert filed regarding the legality of the impeachment resulted in a ruling from Temporary Associate Judge Sharon Tracey Barrett that no impeachment hearing could occur until the court issued a further ruling. The case will go to the Cherokee Supreme Court, Barrett’s decision read, so impeachment would be stayed “for a period of ten days, or until otherwise ordered by the Cherokee Supreme Court.”

As a result, Tribal Council convened for a special session April 19 — Lambert said the meeting was illegal, as the tribe’s Charter and Governing Document gives the principal chief the sole power to call a special session — and set a new hearing date for May 2. 

However, on Friday, April 21, the Cherokee Supreme Court scheduled a court hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 9, stipulating that the stay on impeachment proceedings would not be lifted until after the court issued a final order in the case. 

The suit alleges 12 different counts of law-breaking on the part of the pro-impeachment faction of Tribal Council. Among other things, it claims that Tribal Council has no right to suspend a chief, has held illegal secret meetings, has deprived Lambert of his due process under the law, interfered with the Office of Internal Audit investigation that formed the basis of impeachment efforts and violated the authority of Grand Council. 

Robert Saunooke, who is representing the nine tribal council members named, has filed a motion to dismiss. The grounds for dismissal rest largely on the argument that Tribal Council members have sovereign immunity from lawsuits when acting in their official capacities, and that sovereign immunity has not been waived. 

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— By Holly Kays, staff writer


Cast of characters

Pro-impeachment officials

• Vice Chief Richie Sneed

• Chairman Bill Taylor, of Wolfetown

• Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, of Snowbird

• Councilmember Bo Crowe, of Wolfetown

• Councilmember Adam Wachacha, of Snowbird

• Councilmember Albert Rose, of Birdtown

• Councilmember Travis Smith, of Birdtown

• Councilmember Marie Junaluska, of Painttown

• Councilmember Alan “B” Ensley, of Yellowhill

• Councilmember Anita Lossiah, of Yellowhill

Anti-impeachment officials

• Principal Chief Patrick Lambert

• Councilmember Teresa McCoy, of Big Cove

• Councilmember Richard French, of Big Cove

• Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown

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