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Council on confirmation of JoAnn Jayne as Chief Justice
January 24, 2018 News Articles

LEGISLATION 0273-17: An Action Relating to the Navajo Nation Council; Confirming the Appointment of JoAnn Jayne as Probationary Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court SPONSOR: Honorable Edmund Yazzie

JOANN JAYNE, I’m humbled tp be here. Raised in Tohatchi. Helped Grandmother with herding sheep. I am here to inform you that I was qualified to be Chief Justice. I have experience. And i express myself in Navjao language. I believe in justice for all. i understand we have western statutes but we have fundamental laws that make us who we are and it is teachings of a hundred years and there shud not be a separation of two. in modern time there may be conflict but there should not be.

EXECUTIVE OFFICE LEGAL COUNSEL KARIS BEGAYE, Law and Order made three recommendations to President and President interviewed all three and felt Joann Jayne most qualified.

DELEGATE LEONARD TSOSIE, I believe Navajo justices legislating from the bench. good example is what happened in election case and created division among Navajo. To this day, we don’t know votes in primary election cuz chief justice herb Yazzie put under lock and key and hope your office reconsider cuz we need to be transparent. I don’t think shud be hidden cuz of fear. In that same case, Chief Justice took upon himself to say that there is no pardoning power. he declared no pardon for Election Board which promoted voting rights of Navajo pple. We need to look at that. And in Shirley case, Chief Justice ordered Council to fund government development office. That amounts to legislating from bench. What I would like to see is strong reasoning to confront thinking of federal and state judges on Navajo sovereignty, that Nevada v Hicks, Oliphant wrong. Also ask you to address corrections and revolving door.

DELEGATE DAVIS FILFRED, i am from Utah region and haven’t seen judge impose full sentencing.

DELEGATE JONATHAN PERRY, in interest of returning what are your plans to build up Judicial Branch. Important keep Judicial Branch strong. Past chief justices all contributed. We have three branches but we need to communicate to each other so how would keep dialogue between president and Council.

DELEGATE OTTO TSO, i hope you are not in cahoots with President because tribal justice department is.

DELEGATE WALTER PHELPS, there is need to create Business Court which would create jobs and bring companies in because companies don’t want to go under Navajo jurisdiction.

DELEGATE AMBER CROTTY, saw your application submitted 2015 so thank you for your tenacity and understanding government process especially you also served in state legislature. I don’t expect you to interact on legislation or have say and i ask you to refrain so court remains unbiased. any legislation has condition that could go to courts. i had pleasure of working with chief justice emeritus Robert Yazzie and support vision of judicial branch in sustaining culture and teachings. but very concerned about cases pending before court so looking for direction in administration. only three cases heard by supreme court. and getting calls from constituents about how long their cases have been pending. i expect within 60 days that legislation see plan how cases progressing. in one of your letters of recommendation it was noted how you had to face inequality. my dad from montana and small towns has sheer racial equality and admire you for wanting to return. also look forward to seeing your opinions especially since there seemed to be unanimous decision and very few dissenting opinons.

JOANN JAYNE, Delegate Tsosie had concerns about in past that courts legislated and made law but that never occurred. The purpose and duty and responsibility to judicial courts of Navajo is this branch interprets law so judges take legislation Council put into law. Duty of judges and justices is look at law and interpret. as former state representative we passed law and we did our best but sometimes law vauge and ambiguous so subject to interpretation. but local courts take cases and look at legislation passed and legislative policy behind that. i do understand that in a very world that we would have clear cut legislation then no need for judicial system but we are humans so legislation can be in grey area. When judicial branch does that then strong tribe cuz people decided there would be three branch government. Based on my experience as judge there is the need to look at statute and interpret that and makes for court system you can rely on and any litigant can rely on to the best they can. And we need a system for pple that come before judicial system that cases decided on law. As to Delegate Tsosie statement on Navajo sovereignty and also answer another Delegate question about sovereign status of Navajo nation. yes i am the chief justice for Crow Tribe and recently case to appeal and I wrote decision and in your packet. there was lower court decision that was dismissed and by tribal member who sued non tribal electric company and dismissed cuz no Crow jurisdiction. 36 page decision and reversed lower court cuz Crow Tribe has subject matter jurisdiction over non native electric company. And there was another question about Supreme Court case law and US Supreme Court uses for its decision. But when made decision we went to Crow legislation, laws and federal cases so have experience as to why federal cases not apply. Navajo Nation is sovereign and we have our laws and i respect that. i believe in it. and to the best of my ability and being that will remain. i have case law before this is how we believe. Give status of case now, it was appealed to federal court and case I signed with two other justices is before federal court and I believe we will prevail. in regards to Delegate Kee Allen Begay, you asked about individuals that are elders who do not understand English and come before judicial system. I do understand that. judicial system has addressed; has judges, personnel speak Navajo. we are at a crossroads, which is also what Delegate said. yes there are housing and land and revolving door issues. regarding repeat offenders, judicial has worked with them in their decisions. they look at facts and judges have a lot of discretion. there are judges here and they have heard you. they are doing well and they have caseload that is very, very heavy. as Navajo Nation we appreciate work they have done. areas that are challenging and have to work on. i have read the reports; i don’t everything and judiciary is well staffed and knowledgeable and we have to be proud of them. To Delegate Otto Tso, there are questions regarding the language issue and not sure if issue but you brought out facts that Dine not English speaking. my grandmother Mattie Salago understood a little Navajo and other grandmother didn’t understand Navajo but they told me to go on. There were a lot of questions and comments and appreciate comments of support. On behalf of family I will appreciate that. I understand that…SOME DELEGATES START CALLING FROM FLOOR FOR VOTE.

DELEGATE SETH DAMON, it looks like your probation period may pass here in Council chamber. I look forward to working with on budget issues. You need to stand up to Speaker and President when it comes to budget cuz what they’ll do is give you number and you’ll sign document. You need to know that is what has been happening so be ready to fight.

COUNCIL VOTES ON CONFIRMATION OF JOANN JAYNE AS CHIEF JUSTICE, 17-3. AS SOON AS SPEAKER ANNOUNCES VOTE, THE PEOPLE IN GALLERY CLAP AND SHOUT IN SUPPORT.

JOANN JAYNE IS SWORN AS CHIEF JUSTICE BY NAVAJO SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ELEANOR SHIRLEY.

 

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