Montana attorney selected Navajo Nation chief justice

President Russell Begaye appoints JoAnn B. Jayne to position

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation
  • Acting Chief Justice Allen Sloan plans to retire on July 31.
  • JoAnn B. Jayne earned her law degree from the University of Montana but was born in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — The process to appoint a new chief justice for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court has started.

Montana attorney JoAnn B. Jayne was appointed on July 11 by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, and a new bill is asking tribal council delegates to confirm the appointment for a two-year probationary period.

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The legislation, posted on the council's website, was introduced less than a week after acting Chief Justice Allen Sloan announced his intent to retire on July 31.

If confirmed, Jayne would become the third woman to serve as chief justice. She could not be reached for comment today.

Jayne earned a law degree from the University of Montana in May 1993, according to documentation attached to the bill.

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In addition, she earned a master's degree in watershed management and hydrology from the University of Arizona, and a bachelor's degree in agricultural industry from Arizona State University.

She has owned the Joey Jayne Law Office in Arlee, Mont., for 17 years and served in the Montana House of Representatives from 2001 to 2008.

Jayne is licensed to practice law in Montana district court, federal court in Montana and five tribal courts, including the Navajo Nation.

She is an inactive member in good standing with the Navajo Nation Bar Association, and cleared background checks with the tribe's Office of Background Investigations and the Ethics and Rules Office, according to documentation attached to the bill.

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Her judicial experience includes service as a justice court judge for Lake County in Polson, Mont., and an associate justice for the appeals court for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana.

As special assignments, she served as chief associate justice for the Blackfeet Tribal Appeals Court and as judge for the Blackfeet Tribal Court, both in Browning, Mont., and as judge for the Crow Tribal Court for the Crow Agency in Montana.

Karen Francis, spokeswoman for the Judicial Branch, said Jayne was born in Shiprock and raised in Tohatchi.

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Jayne is Tábaahá (Water's Edge Clan), born for Kinyaa'áanii (Towering House Clan), Francis said.

Under tribal law, the president has the authority to appoint the chief justice, associate justices and district court judges for a two-year probationary period and from applicants recommended by the Law and Order Committee.

At the end of the probationary period, the individual is evaluated for satisfactory performance before a recommendation is submitted to the council for permanent appointment.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.