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NCJ Number: 65663 Find in a Library
Title: COURT REFORM IN THE NAVAJO NATION
Journal: JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN JUDICATURE SOCIETY  Volume:43  Issue:2  Dated:(AUGUST 1959)  Pages:52-55
Author(s): L DAVIS
Corporate Author: American Judicature Soc
United States of America
Date Published: 1959
Page Count: 4
Sponsoring Agency: American Judicature Soc
Chicago, IL 60601-7401
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THIS ARTICLE DECRIBES THE TRIAL COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE NAVAJO TRIBE, WHICH WERE ESTABLISHED IN 1959 AND REPRESENT A SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT OF INDIAN SELF-GOVERNMENT.
Abstract: FOLLOWING BOTH THE CONQUEST OF THE NAVAJOS BY THE U.S. AND THE TREATY OF 1868, THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS SET UP A COURT OF INDIAN OFFENSES ON THE NAVAJO RESERVATION. THIS COURT GRADUALLY SUPPLANTED MORE PRIMITIVE TRADITIONS OF JUSTICE (SUCH AS BLOOD MONEY) AND WAS FINALLY VESTED WITH JURISDICTION OVER ALL CRIMES COMMITTED BY INDIANS ON THE RESERVATION EXCEPT THE 10 MAJOR CRIMES AND VIOLATIONS OF FEDERAL STATUTES. ALSO OUTSIDE ITS JURISDICTION WERE ALL CIVIL ACTIONS ARISING ON THE RESERVATION IN WHICH AN INDIAN WAS THE DEFENDANT. ALL INDIAN JUDGES WERE APPOINTED BY THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS AND PAID FROM FEDERAL FUNDS UNTIL 1950. AT THAT TIME, PROVISIONS WERE MADE FOR THEIR ELECTION BY THE TRIBAL COUNCIL AND FOR PAYMENT OF THEIR SALARIES BY THE TRIBE. INSTEAD OF PROFESSIONAL LAWYERS, NONPROFESSIONAL NAVAJO COUNSELORS ASSISTED LITIGANTS IN COURT. THE TRIBAL SYSTEM OF ELECTIVE JUDGES IN OFFICE FOR 4 YEARS PROVED PARTICULARLY UNSATISFACTORY, AND THE LEGISLATURE OF THE NAVAJO NATION (THE TRIBAL COUNCIL) ABOLISHED THE COURT OF INDIAN OFFENSES IN 1959, ESTABLISHING INSTEAD THE TRIAL COURT OF THE NAVAJO TRIBE AND THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE NAVAJO TRIBE. THE NEW COURTS ARE CLEARLY AND EXCLUSIVELY THE JUDICIAL BRANCH OF THE NAVAJO NATION AND ARE FREE FROM CONTROL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR OR ANY OTHER FEDERAL AGENCY. THE TRIAL COURT CONSISTS OF SEVEN JUDGES APPOINTED BY THE TRIBAL COUNCIL FOR INITIAL 2-YEAR PROBATIONARY TERMS. IF CHOSEN TO CONTINUE TO SERVE, THEY CAN HOLD THE POSITION UNTIL THE AGE OF 70. THE NEW COURT OF APPEALS CONSISTS OF ONE FULL-TIME CHIEF JUSTICE AND TWO JUDGES OF THE TRIAL COURT. THE PROCEDURE UPON APPEAL IS A TRIAL 'DE NOVO,' WHICH TAKES PLACE ONLY UPON CERTIFICATE OF PROBABLE CAUSE FROM THE CHIEF JUSTICE. IN ADDITION, THE CHIEF JUSTICE SUPERVISES ALL THE WORK OF THE TRIAL JUDGES. PROVISIONS WERE MADE FOR THE ADOPTION OF RULES OF PLEADING, PRACTICE, AND PROCEDURE APPLICABLE TO ALL CASES. THESE RULES OF COURT ARE NOW IN PREPARATION. PROVISION ALSO EXISTS FOR A SIX-MAN JURY IN THE TRIAL COURT, WHICH MAY RENDER A VERDICT BY MAJORITY VOTE. IN ADDITION, ALL LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES ON THE NAVAJO INDIAN RESERVATION INVOLVING INDIANS, EXCEPT THOSE CONCERNED WITH VIOLATIONS OF FEDERAL STATUTES, ARE ALSO NOW PERFORMED EXCLUSIVELY BY THE NAVAJO TRIBE USING ITS OWN PERSONNEL AND FUNDS. ILLUSTRATIONS ARE INCLUDED. (MRK)
Index Term(s): American Indians; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Indian affairs; Indian justice; Tribal court system; Tribal history
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=65663

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