Tribal leaders face off in Navajo Supreme Court

By Felicia Fonseca
Albuquerque, New Mexico (AP) May 2010

Navajo Supreme Court justices heard arguments April 28 in a case that has furthered the rift between the tribe’s legislative and executive branches.

The Tribal Council voted in October to place Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation into his dealings with two companies that operated on the reservation.

Shirley successfully sought an order blocking the council resolution, and an appeal followed.

Shirley’s attorney argued during a hearing in Window Rock, Ariz., that the council illegally removed the president and has elevated its power to an unprecedented level.

An attorney for the council contended the case was improperly expedited and that lawmakers engaged in legislative functions are immune from lawsuits under tribal law.