Tag Archives: Navajo Supreme Court

11/15/2011 Yale Daily News: Tribal Court holds case on campus

The Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation came to Yale to hear a case on Monday evening. Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

11/15/2011 Yale Daily News Tribal Court holds case on campus By Shira Telushkin, Contributing Reporter: In a rare appearance outside its reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation came to Yale to meet with students and hear a case on campus Monday evening. About 250 Law School students, faculty members and visiting scholars watched in the Law School auditorium as the Court judged the case Navajo Nation v. RJN Construction Management, Inc., Robert J. Nelson and The Home for Women and Children, which involves a dispute over land ownership. In addition to overseeing the proceedings during the two-day stay, the three justices held a panel about careers in Native American law, ate at Pepe’s Pizza on Wooster Street with the Native American Law Students Association and joined members of the Native American Cultural Center for dinner at The Study on Chapel Street.

Joanne Williams, LAW ’12, co-chair of the NALSA and one of the event’s student organizers, said the event was intended to raise awareness of the Native American legal system that is independent from U.S. federal law.

“One of the big things we’re trying to do is show students something they might not know about,” she said.

Differences between the law of the Navajo Nation and United States include the fact that Native American law is not founded on the U.S. Constitution and takes into account Navajo common law.

Still, law professor Gerald Torres, who introduced the justices and the Court, emphasized in his introduction that the tribal justice system is a vibrant part of the American legal system, and stated that “it’s important to remember that Navajo laws stress restorative, not punitive law.”

Eugene Fidell, a lecturer at the Law School who teaches a course on Native American law, told the News he believes that all educated Americans are morally obligated to be aware of Native American culture because of the Unites States’ conflicts with Native Americans in the past. Fidell added that this event was “a way of breaking out of a rigid vision of law” and served as a useful reminder that there are many ways to design a law system. Torres added that he believes familiarity with tribal law and court systems is very important for law students since reservations within the country’s borders help shape United States law.

Lucas Mills ’05 LAW ’10, who started a Native American law reading group with several other students while at the Law School, said that seeing another law system at work can great expand the perspective of law students.

“This isn’t a special presentation,” he said. “They’re just doing their thing, and we’re privy to that. We can’t ignore the cultural impact of an event like this.”

All seven audience members interviewed said they appreciated the chance to see a tribal court in session. Elizabeth Reese ’11, a member of the Nambe Pueblo tribe who traveled from New Mexico to attend the event, said it was “amazing to have the Navajo Supreme Court demonstrate the meaning and power of our sovereignty,” adding that the proceedings marked an “important moment for native people on this campus.”

Jennifer Skene LAW ’14, and a member of NALSA, said the experience made her reflect on the merits of the American justice system.

“Seeing this whole other process was eye-opening, and makes you see that the American system isn’t the only way to render justice,” she said.

The event was sponsored by the Law School Dean’s Office, the Office of Student Affairs, the Native American Law Students’ Association and The Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, with support from the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School.

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: NEW HAVEN, Conn.: Forget every stereotype you ever had about Yale University. Especially the “Yale man.” “Tall, white, muscular, and wearing a cardigan vest,” grinned Christian Brown, ticking off the attributes he associated with Yale students – before he became one. Actually, aside from being a different color, Brown is not too far off the mark. He is medium height and broad-shouldered, and last Saturday, he happened to be wearing a sweater vest. But it was a special occasion. He and the other Diné students at Yale were assigned to take the visiting Navajo Nation Supreme Court justices out to dinner at one of the best restaurants in New Haven – on the university’s tab.

“Not something that would happen at your typical state university,” declared the dapper freshman, who is Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan), born for bilagaana.

Dinée Dorame, Tabaaha (Edge Water Clan), born for Naakaii Diné’e (Mexican People Clan), was sporting a Yale T-shirt and shorts. She had just come from working out at one of the campus’s many gyms, having blown off a club basketball game in favor of meeting the justices.

“Yeah, I’m a jock,” she confessed. “You can be a jock at Yale, too.”

Right at home

Far from their hometowns of Phoenix and Albuquerque, and two of only six Navajo students at Yale, you might expect the two freshmen to be at least a little freaked out. But they seem right at home. And they are interrupting each other in their zeal to sing the praises of their new alma mater.

7/29/2011 AP Washington Post: Lawsuit accuses 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members of fraud in use of funds

7/29/2011 AP Washington Post: Lawsuit accuses 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members of fraud in use of funds: WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A special prosecutor filed a lawsuit against 78 current and former Navajo Nation Council members alleging massive fraud in their use of $36 million in discretionary funds intended for Navajos in need. The lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the council members of unlawfully taking about $36 million belonging to the deeply impoverished American Indian reservation from 2005 through 2010 to benefit themselves and their families. The council receives millions of dollars a year through supplemental budget appropriations to dole out to elderly Navajos on fixed incomes, college students, organizations in need or Navajos looking for emergency funding. Any member of the nation can seek financial help from a single lawmaker every six months.

The nation’s Supreme Court put on hold the discretionary until rules were established on how they could be doled out.

The civil case comes after all or nearly all of criminal cases against council members for alleged misuse of the money were dismissed. The lawsuit seeks the recovery of the money and accuses council members of ignoring their responsibility to keep tight controls over the nation’s money.

“These officials have divested themselves of their duties of honesty and transparency, choosing instead to perfect the art of self-dealing, ineptitude and secrecy,” said the lawsuit filed by special prosecutor Alan Balaran.

Tribal Council Speaker Johnny Naize, one of the lawmakers who was sued, said the lawsuit was a shoddy piece of legal work by the special prosecutor. “He is throwing darts again trying to see if any will stick,” Naize said.

David Jordan, an attorney who represented dozens of lawmakers in the criminal cases, said Balaran has billed the nation for $1.1 million for his investigation and came up empty handed.

Balaran didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit said that one sampling of the misspent money found that council members gave more than $2 million to 130 recipients with little regard over whether they were poor. The recipients received checks ranging from $10,000 to $54,000.

Another sample found that family members of 14 council members received $51,000 to $130,000. Additionally, millions of dollars went to Navajo Nation employees, even though they were ineligible to receive them, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Joe Shirley Jr., the nation’s president from 2003 to 2011, sanctioned the passage of dozens of unlawful budget appropriations that resulted in the illegal conversion of tens of millions of dollars belonging to the nation.

Shirley approved resolutions which appropriated money to the discretionary fund and to a charitable contribution fund and which were falsely touted as emergency legislation, the lawsuit said.

The filing accuses Shirley of supporting appropriations knowing the money would be spent to enrich delegates, their families and other ineligible recipients.

“It’s outrageous that you could sue President Shirley for signing off on a budget,” said Jordan, who has advised Shirley on the investigation by the special prosecutor.

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