Bill requires law degree to join Navajo Nation Supreme Court

Justices of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court: Chief Justice Herb Yazzie and Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley. The third seat is currently vacant. Photos by Kathie Curley

A bill that was introduced in the Navajo Nation Council requires a law degree for current and future justices of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

Tribal law does not currently contain such a requirement, The Farmington Daily Times reported. One sitting justice -- Eleanor Shirley -- does not hold a law degree, the paper said.

But by including the requirement, Legislation No. 0031-15 notes that the tribe could exercise authority under Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The law allows tribes to impose longer sentences on Indian criminal defendants provided that the judge has "sufficient legal training" to preside over such matters and is licensed to practice law by "any jurisdiction" in the U.S.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court does not directly handle criminal trials. But the bill notes that the justices hear appeals of criminal cases.

The Violence Against Women Act of 2013, which recognizes tribal jurisdiction over certain domestic violence offenses committed by non-Indians, contains the same requirement as the Tribal Law and Order Act.

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New bill aims to change criteria for service on Navajo Nation Supreme Court (The Farmington Daily Times 2/3)

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