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>  News Releases >   2007 >   January

Navajo Supreme Court to hear oral arguments at Dartmouth

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 01/17/07 • Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

Dartmouth College and Vermont Law School are pleased to announce the Navajo Nation Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on one of its Winter term cases at Dartmouth College, Monday, February 12, 2007, in Cook Auditorium, at the Tuck School of Business. The event begins at 2:00 p.m. with a presentation by Vermont Law School Professor N. Bruce Duthu on the role of tribal courts within the American legal system. Supreme Court oral arguments will begin at 2:30 p.m. Both the presentation and the oral arguments are free and open to the public.

The case, Navajo Transport Services, Inc. v. Schroeder, concerns the authority of the Navajo courts to exercise judicial power over an off-reservation party for conduct that produces harmful effects on the reservation. The suit alleges that an off-reservation liquor store acted negligently in selling liquor to a tribal member whose intoxication contributed to a serious accident on the Navajo Reservation. The tribal district court in Kayenta dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction over the liquor store. The appeal will be heard by the three Justices of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, and Associate Justices Lorene Ferguson and Irene Black, who normally hear cases in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation.

According to Duthu, who teaches courses at both Dartmouth and Vermont Law School on Native Americans and the law, the Navajo Supreme Court has held previous formal hearings on the campuses of Harvard Law School and the University of Michigan School of Law. "American Indian tribes occupy a unique place in the United States legal system by virtue of their legal status as distinct governments. This event provides a rare opportunity for members of the general public to see and experience American Indian tribal sovereignty in action," says Duthu. "The Navajo Supreme Court works actively to help enhance our national literacy about tribal sovereignty. That broader community and national education plays a vital role in bringing about greater understanding and respect for tribal systems of justice."

Professor Colin Calloway, chair of the Native American studies department and one of the organizers for the event adds, "This is a great chance to see that when, in Native American studies, we talk about tribal sovereignty, we're not just talking about abstract theory. We'll be able to see how justice works in a Native America court. This is something that should be of interest to all students.”

The Navajo Nation is the largest federally recognized tribe in the United States (after the Cherokee Nation) with more than a quarter of a million enrolled members.

Parking for members of the general public is available in the Dewey Parking Lot on the north end of the Dartmouth campus behind the Dartmouth Medical School. A shuttle bus provides regular service to the central campus, including to the Tuck Business School. For further information please contact Linda M. Welch at 603-646-3530 or N. Bruce Duthu.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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