Navajo Council Law & Order Committee unanimously opposes Mandatory law degree for Navajo Supreme Court

Here at the Navajo Cuuncil Law & Order Committee, where the committee is now on Legislation 0031-15, which is for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court judges to hold a Juris Doctor Degree. This legislation is sponsored by Delegate Dwight Witherspoon.

L&O committee members support judges with more education, such as a law degree, but they are concerned that the requirement would remove Supreme Court judges that are knowledgeable about Navajo Fundamental Laws, which can only be fully understood in the Navajo language. The current sitting judges on the Navajo Nation Supreme Court fully understand Navajo Fundamental Laws.

My concern is that the judges might now about corporate law, international law, intellectual property law, federal law, water rights…and the list goes on. I just want to give you a perspective. I just want to add a criteria that they have some kind of exposure to the different facets of law at some point. Yes, they are required to know Fundamental Law, speak Navajo, know criminal and family law. My concern is that there is a facet of law that our Navajo Nation Supreme Court are not exposed to and it’s hurting the Navajo Nation. It’s not doing away with current requirements but add requirement at highest level for benefit of nation.

Is this past legislation sponsored by former Delegate Russell Begaye? Number 6, page 2 says that Navajo Supreme Court hears appeals on criminal cases. So is there different language?

so when will the Navajo Nation hear cases involving federal major crimes law. this committee makes thorough evaluation of judicial candidates. and just because a judge has juris doctorate does not guarantee that they know about Navajo Fundamental Law and that is important for our people at the community level. Delegate Witherspoon wants this qualification for Law Degree to be mandatory and so we won’t have choice but to make that person a judge. We need judges are well versed in both Navajo Fundamental Law and western law.

L&O COMMITTEE VOTE ON LEGISLATION 0031-15 IS ZERO IN FAVOR, 4 OPPOSED. Legislation 0031-15 now goes to Naabik’iyati Committee and finally to the Navajo Council.

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