Two judges from the First Judicial District Court are being sued in federal court by the Pueblo de Pojoaque over personal injury cases they are presiding over involving two casinos.
Judge Bryan Biedscheid and Judge Matthew Wilson both have lawsuits before them involving personal injury claims at the Buffalo Thunder and the Cities of Gold Casino. Both casinos are on Pueblo lands and the federal lawsuits question the jurisdiction of the two state court judges to preside over personal injury cases against the casinos.
The Pueblo de Pojoaque did not respond to requests for comment.
In the case before Biedscheid, Rudy Pena is suing Buffalo Thunder for injuries he allegedly sustained when a casino employee told him to walk away from a slot machine, which he claims did. fall backwards and be injured. In the state lawsuit, Pena said he suffered from muscular dystrophy – he used a cane and a scooter – and could not quickly step aside for the worker.
Pena filed the complaint in the district court in 2017. The Pueblo did not file the federal complaint against Biedscheid until early 2020.
In the case before Wilson, Henry Martinez is also suing Cities of Gold Casino for a personal injury claim when he slipped and fell on a sheet of plastic that was lying on the ground. Martinez’s lawsuit said there was no warning sign indicating a risk of slipping or marking the area of ââthe ground as unsafe.
Martinez filed his lawsuit against Casino Pueblo in late 2020, and the Pueblo filed their federal lawsuit against Wilson in April 2021.
In both lawsuits, Martinez and Pena claim their injuries are due to negligent acts by casino employees. It is this assertion that becomes a vital sticking point for prosecutions.
Biedscheid and Wilson both dismissed the Pueblo’s requests to dismiss the cases for lack of jurisdiction, stating in their orders that under India’s Gaming Regulation Act, the Pueblo waives its right to sovereign immunity when injuries occur as a result of an employee’s actions.
It is on this ruling that the current federal lawsuits against Biedscheid and Wilson are based, which determines the larger question of which courts can hear which cases involving Pueblos.
Biedscheid and Wilson are both represented by the New Mexico attorney general’s office. Matt Baca, the bureau’s chief counsel, said the judges are not being prosecuted for their conduct, but because they have the cases on their record.
“They are trying to get the federal courts to declare these cases to be heard in a tribal court,” Baca said. âTribal issues seem to be more about the legal question of whether or not their courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear these cases and, again, not so much about the judges themselves. “
The issue of tribal jurisdiction over state or federal is a very complex one and it arises in New Mexico with some frequency, he said.
Generally speaking, Baca said there is the idea of ââjudicial immunity for decisions the judge makes while overseeing his court. However, these prosecutions relate more to the jurisdiction of the case than to legal actions.