KNAU and Arizona News
Thu October 20, 2011
Navajo Supreme Court bill fails
By Shelley Smithson
Flagstaff, AZ – A bill that would have changed the qualifications for Navajo Supreme Court justices fell short in the Navajo Nation Council today.
The legislation, sponsored by Council Delegate Russell Begaye, of Shiprock, N.M., would have required all high court judges to hold law degrees.
Even though 14 delegates voted to require that justices hold law degrees, the bill was short of the 16 votes needed for a two-thirds majority.
That super-majority is required for all bills that alter the courts.
The bill also required all Supreme Court justices to be certified by a state bar, in addition to the Navajo Nation Bar.
The legislation is the latest in a series of skirmishes between the Council and the Judiciary.
Chief Justice Herb Yazzie opposed the bill even though he graduated from law school.
He believes the Navajo legal system should rely more on fundamental Navajo laws, not American traditions.
Begaye says he was disappointed by the loss. But he says he will try again when the Council meets this winter.
Begaye wants the Navajo government to require professional degrees for all high-ranking officials, not just Supreme Court justices.