Navajo Nation Council confirms chief justice nominee

JoAnn Jayne will serve 2-year probationary period

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
JoAnn B. Jayne, center, receives the oath of office as the probationary chief justice for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court on Wednesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

FARMINGTON — A Montana attorney and former state representative has been confirmed as chief justice for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.

JoAnn B. Jayne was confirmed by the Navajo Nation Council during the winter session on Wednesday in Window Rock, Arizona.

Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley administered the oath of office after the 17-3 vote to confirm Jayne, who earned a law degree from the University of Montana.

She is the third woman to hold the designation, according to the Office of the Speaker.

Jayne owned a law office for 17 years in Arlee, Montana, and served in the Montana House of Representatives from 2001 to 2008.

Tribal president Russell Begaye appointed Jayne to the high court last July, and she will be evaluated for satisfactory performance at the end of a two-year probationary period before a recommendation is submitted to the council for permanent appointment.

In video posted online by the Speaker's Office, Jayne spoke to the council about growing up in Tohatchi and her belief in the justice system and the application of western laws, tribal statutes and Diné Fundamental Law.

JoAnn B. Jayne, left, receives the oath of office from Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley after the Navajo Nation Council approved Jayne's appointment to the high court on Wednesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

"I do understand that in this modern day (and) modern time, there may be a conflict but I don't believe there ought to be a conflict. They should complement each other," she said.

During the council discussion, delegates expressed concern about legislating from the bench and maintaining a separation of powers, but they also voiced support for Jayne's nomination.

Karis Begaye, legal counsel for the President's Office, said after interviewing the three applicants recommended by the Law and Order Committee, the president thought Jayne was "the most highly qualified."

"We are also very pleased that we are able to bring our Navajo people back home, as Ms. Jayne will be returning home if she is confirmed today," Begaye said.

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