Justice Day in Shiprock celebrates Navajo Nation court system

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
From left, Kandace Littlefoot, a tribal prosecutor for the Shiprock and Aneth district, speaks with Crownpoint resident Vita Begay about the prosecutor's office during Justice Day on Friday at the Shiprock district court.

SHIPROCK — Navajo Nation Judicial Branch employees here recognized the tribe's court system by providing information to community members about the courts during Justice Day.

The annual event is held in each of the 11 district courts on the Navajo Nation to commemorate the creation of the tribe's court system on April 1, 1959.

The event is also designed to help the public learn about the judicial branch, including its district courts, Supreme Court, probation program and peacemaking program, which observes the traditional form of dispute resolution.

During the Justice Day in Window Rock, Arizona on Monday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer, Speaker Seth Damon and Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne signed a proclamation to mark the 60th anniversary of the court system.

The proclamation designated April as the month to celebrate the judicial system and to recognize the contributions of previous and current judges, justices and employees of the judicial branch.

Genevieve Woody is the district court judge in Shiprock and Irene Black is the district court judge in Aneth, Utah.

Both women took their oaths of office in 2005 and attended Justice Day today.

Linda Williams, judicial staff assistant with the Administrative Offices of the Courts, talks about a poster that shows the Chief Justices of the Navajo Nation and the first members of the tribe's Supreme Court.

They view the event as an opportunity for communities to learn about the court system from its origin to present day, as well as its various services.

"I'm super glad that people are coming in to find out about the court," Black said.

Justice Day is one outlet to educate the public, but another opportunity is through pro se classes that focus on various topics and are offered throughout the year, Woody said.

The anniversary holds special meaning for the judges because the Navajo Nation is unique in operating a court system that has a Supreme Court.

Genevieve Woody, left, and Irene Black have been serving as judges for 13 years for the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch. Woody is the judge for the Shiprock district and Black is the judge for the Aneth, Utah district.

"We've seen the ins and outs of the courts. The struggles of the courts. The impact that the court has made upon family or an individual. For me, I'm proud that we have this court," Woody said.

Kandace Littlefoot is a tribal prosecutor for the Shiprock and Aneth District under the Office of the Prosecutor.

Although the prosecutor's office is an entity under the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, it participates in Justice Day because of its relationship to the court system.

Miss Northern Navajo Teen Tehya Barber listens to information about the tribe's Office of the Prosecutor on Friday at Justice Day at the Shiprock Judicial District court.

"We work closely together because the court is a forum for us," Littlefoot said.

The court in Shiprock was not alone in holding Justice Day today. The courts in Ramah and in Chinle, Kayenta and Tuba City, all in Arizona, held the event as well.

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