Final editing by Lou: August 1, 2000




Case No.
Appellants )
) 1469/93
v. ) 1470/93
) AP-010-93*
Respondent )
______________ )

Before SEKAQUAPTEWA, Chief Justice, and L0MAYESVA and ABBEY, Justices.

Parties represented by: Richard George for Appellants, and William L. McCulley for Respondent.


On December 14, 1989, Governor Leroy Shingoitewa of the Upper Village of Moencopi signed an order regarding the inheritance of land by Amy Gasdia. That order was certified by the Hopi Tribal Court on June 11, 1993. The Hopi Constitution, Article III, Section 2(c), vests trial courts with the authority to certify village orders in matters reserved to the villages. Both the village's order and the trial court's certifying order found Russell (CR No. 1470/93) and Virginia Gaseoma (CR No. 1469/93), appellants, to be trespassers on Amy Gasdia's land. A copy of the certifying order was sent to counsel for appellants on June 16, 1993, and appellants' notice of that order was never contested.

On August 2, 1993, appellants had still not left Gasdia's land, and when asked to do so by a Tribal Peace Officer, they refused. They were arrested for Failure to Obey a Lawful Order of the Court. See Hopi Ord. 21, 3.3.84.(1)

Appellants were found guilty on August 10, 1994. Orders of Judgment were entered on September 23, 1994. Appellants filed a Notice of Appeal on October 20, 1994. Although that notice was filed seven days too late (see H.I.R.C.C.P. 3(a)), this court excused that delay in this case. Court order No. 3-28-96-4 (Mar. 29, 1996). The Hopi Tribe, respondent, was ordered to file a response brief within twenty days, but it elected not to do so.

Appellants claim that because this case originated out of a civil matter, that the trial court erred as a "matter of law to allow [this] action to proceed as a criminal matter." Appellants' Brief at p. 2. That same issue was raised at the trial court level, and the trial court dismissed appellants' argument. Tribal Court Decision of August 10, 1994 at pp. 4-5. The trial court noted that appellants' argument was one of first impression for the court, but it reasoned that "the Hopi Tribe may elect to use its criminal ordinance to enforce a lawful order of [that c]ourt[,]" (id. at p. 3.) and that "there is no requirement that civil contempt proceedings to enforce [a] civil order must be enforced before criminal charges can be filed." Id. at p. 5. However, the trial court said that in reaching its decision, it did not have the benefit of any authority presented by the defendants (appellants in this case) to support their argument. Id. at p. 3.

As authority in their appeal, appellants rely on State v. Cohen, 489 P.2d 283, 15 Ariz.App. 436 (see Appellants' Brief at p. 3.), which differentiates between civil and criminal contempt. That case is not applicable to these facts, however, because appellants were not held in criminal contempt. Rather, they were convicted of a criminal statute for willfully refusing to obey a lawful court order. In their own brief, appellants concede that "[t]he action of failure to obey a lawful order of the court [comes] within the scope of a criminal offense." Id.

Because appellants do not rely on any additional authority to support their argument, this court adopts by reference the trial court's reasoning and holding of August 10, 1994. This court holds that the Hopi Tribe may elect to criminally prosecute the intentional or willful disobedience of a lawful court order, even though the underlying court order originates from a civil matter. This holding does not preclude the Hopi Tribe from pursuing other appropriate civil or criminal remedies to enforce its lawful judgments and orders.


It is hereby ORDERED that the consolidated  in the case of The Hopi Tribe v. Virginia Gaseoma (CR No. 1469/93) and The Hopi Tribe v. Russell Gaseoma (CR No. 1470/93) is dismissed. The Hopi Tribal Court's decision is AFFIRMED.


Emory Sekaquaptewa Date

Fred Lomayesva Date

Jay Abbey Date


1 Hopi Ordinance 21, section 3.3.84 states in relevant part: "Any Indian who shall intentionally and knowingly disobey or resist the lawful order. . . of a Hopi Tribal Court shall be deemed guilty of [a criminal] offense."