Leonard Peltier has lost another court battle.
As a recap, this began as a federal civil suit concerning the removal of his prison paintings from the Washington State, Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), Native American Art exhibit in November 2015.
The convicted brutal murderer’s prison paintings were on display and advertised for sale, which prompted a predictable response among current and retired FBI Agents. Retired Agents were interviewed by local media and two separate letters were written to the Governor and L&I officials objecting to the display; from the then President of the Society of former Special Agents of the FBI, Larry Langberg, and the founder of the No Parole Peltier Association, Ed Woods.[i]
On March 21, 2017 on behalf of Peltier, pro bono attorney Lawrence Hildes filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court (USDC) for the Western District of Washington against Woods and Langberg and several Washington State officials, including Joel Sacks, Director of the L&I facility and Governor Inslee.
On July 25, 2017, after further motions, the suit against Woods and Langberg was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that it was a final judgement and dismissed on the merits that barred Peltier and Hildes from bringing any further action on this claim.
At the same time, the USDC dismissed all but one of Peltier’s claims except that the case could proceed against Washington State.
Over the next several years, and the passing of attorney Hildes, the Ninth Circuit Court gave Peltier significant time and deadlines to find another attorney, or proceed pro se’. This would allow Peltier—a convicted murderer serving consecutive life sentences—to represent himself from prison, without an attorney.
On July 11, 2022, the Ninth Circuit granted a motion filed by Appellant Joel Sacks to dismiss the case. The Ninth Circuit disposed of this matter pursuant to rule 42b, stating “This order shall constitute the mandate.”
Peltier’s loss was the result of a few mitigating factors.
The passing of attorney Lawrence Hildes. USDC Judge Leighton criticized Hildes motions on a couple of legal matters. In regard to Peltier himself, Hildes’s motions were filled with many repetitive and arguably meaningless adjectives as well as false and inaccurate statements, some echoing the same myth and folklore taken directly from Peltier and the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee website.
Peltier certainly did not have the wherewithal, even with assistance from prison inmate jailhouse lawyers, to make meaningful arguments through motions to the Ninth Circuit.
It is curious, and perhaps not all that understandable, that Peltier’s current pro bono attorney, Kevin H. Sharp didn’t step up this time.[iii] Sharp’s advocacy parrots most of the misinformation about Peltier’s conviction, appeals and public statements, yet he was not willing to continue defending Peltier’s interests in a case with little, if any, publicity.
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
[i] Letter to Governor Inslee:
[ii] Review of Peltier federal civil suit:
[iii] Peltier attorney, Kevin H. Sharp: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2022/08/