Ninth Circuit Oral Argument in Window Rock Unified School District v. Nez (Formerly Reeves)


Briefs and lower court materials here.

Navajo SCT Rules that Navajo Courts Retain Jurisdiction over Navajo Children Residing Off-Reservation

Here is the opinion in Nouri v. Crownpoint Family Court. The court’s syllabus:

The Supreme Court issues its Opinion and Order Denying Writ of Prohibition regarding competing child custody actions filed by parents in Navajo and state courts. Jurisdiction of the Navajo court over the child was challenged because the child who formerly resided in Fort Defiance now resides with her mother in Albuquerque. The Court affirms that the Nation has jurisdiction over Navajo children wherever they may reside, which arises from inherent sovereignty as acknowledged at 7 N.N.C. 253(B). The Court further affirms that the Álchíní Bi Beehaz’áannii Act is not the basis for jurisdiction over privately filed family actions in which parents are legally capable of making decisions for their children.

Ninth Circuit Briefs in Challenge to Navajo Labor Jurisdiction over Window Rock Unified School District

Here are the briefs in Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves:

Reeves Opening Brief

Navajo Nation Labor Commission Opening Brief

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Amicus Brief

Window Rock Answer Brief

Navajo Nation Labor Commission Reply Brief

Lower court materials here.

Federal Court Holds Navajo Nation Labor Commission Has No Jurisdiction over Window Rock Public Schools

Here are the materials in Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves (D. Ariz.):

DCT Order Granting Summary J to School District

NNLC Motion to Dismiss

Window Rock Response

NNLC Reply

Window Rock Reply

We posted the complaint here.

Window Rock School District Sues to Enjoin Navajo Labor Commission Actions

Here is the complaint.

Here are the materials in a similar case, Red Mesa USD v. Yellowhair, decided in 2010.

Navajo Supreme Court Decides Navajo Sovereign Immunity Act Case

The caption is Begay v. Navajo Engineering & Construction Authority and the Navajo Nation. The opinion is here.

Here is the court’s summary:

In this appeal of a district court’s dismissal of a tort action for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court affirms the dismissal on jurisdictional grounds and emphasizes that trial courts must first find jurisdiction before making substantive rulings.

Navajo Supreme Court to Reconsider High-Profile Cases in Light of Prohibition on Use of Fundamental Law

From the Navajo Times Online (via Pechanga):

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has pushed back two high-profile cases by a month in the wake of a new law that the court says could enhance the Navajo Nation Council’s immunity against lawsuits, and may not be valid.

The law in question limits the use of Diné Fundamental Law to Peacemaker Court, and the justices said in two orders issued March 4 that this raises questions in both cases, because both sides rely heavily on Fundamental Law in their briefs.

The cases at hand are Timothy Nelson v. Joe Shirley Jr. and his initiative committee, in which a Western Agency voter is seeking to overturn the Dec. 15 special election that reduced the council from 88 to 24 members; and Office of the President v. Navajo Nation Council, in which the council is appealing a Dec. 14 ruling that reinstated Shirley after the council put him on leave.

Stung by recent rulings that invoked Diné Fundamental Law, the council in January passed a bill to prevent the courts from basing rulings on Fundamental Law. The hastily drawn legislation did not address what would become of cases already in process that cite Fundamental Law, such as the election challenge that most delegates are openly supporting.

The bill to restrict use of Fundamental Law said the courts, including the Supreme Court, are to rely only on statutes, which are the laws passed by the council.

Shirley vetoed the bill, saying it was a blatant attempt to tie the courts’ hands, but the council called a special session Feb. 23 and overrode the veto by a large margin, and the restrictions took effect instantly.

“It appears that the new legislation purports to enhance the immunity of the Navajo Nation Council and all council delegates against lawsuits,” states the court’s order requesting supplemental briefs in the president’s office v. the council. “As a result, a question arises as to what impact does the new legislation have on this lawsuit. Can this lawsuit proceed?”

Continue reading

Navajo Tribal Council Overrides Veto of Law that Would Limit Application of Dine Fundamental Law

News article via Indianz:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Navajo lawmakers voted Tuesday to override the veto of a bill that prohibits tribal judges from using a set of laws based on centuries-old traditional values and customs in court cases.

The Tribal Council voted 67-11 in favor of the override during a special session in Window Rock.

Judges often have interwoven what’s known as Dine Fundamental Law with other statutes that are not always consistent with Navajo cultures. Now, any dispute regarding the validity, application or interpretation of fundamental law will not be heard in Navajo courts but be resolved consensually through peacemaking.

“Judges and justices themselves do not know what fundamental law is all about,” said Delegate Lorenzo Curley, an inactive member of the Navajo Bar Association. “In this vague system that we have, how can we expect justice or fair play? There’s been no certainty at all.” Continue reading

Navajo Housing Authority v. Crownpoint District Court

This housing case originated in Navajo courts, but has bled over into federal court. Here are the materials: