Nominees seek service on Navajo Nation court bench

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Closeup of gavel in court room.

FARMINGTON — Members of the Navajo Nation Council are being asked to consider three pieces of legislation to confirm judges for the tribe's court system.

The bills seek to confirm the appointments of Neomi Gilmore, Letitia Stover and Malcolm Laughing as district court judges for a probationary period of two years.

There are 11 judicial districts with 13 courts on the reservation, according to the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch.

There are nine vacancies for judge positions in the district courts, resolution from the Judicial Conduct Commission states.

Judicial Branch spokeswoman Karen Francis said which district court the judge is assigned to will be determined after he or she is confirmed.

The three candidates are enrolled members of the Navajo Nation.

Gilmore is a 2014 graduate of the University of Idaho College of Law and has been a member of the Navajo Nation Bar Association since 2015.

She stated in her letter of interest that she has five years of litigation experience from previous work as a tribal law counselor and legal assistant.

"I am interested in this opportunity particularly because I want to sharpen my understanding of the Navajo Nation justice system, and help the people of the Navajo Nation," Gilmore wrote.

Stover earned her Juris Doctor from the University of South Dakota School of Law and graduated with an LL.M. from the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona.

She is the staff attorney for the Kayenta Judicial District in Kayenta, Arizona.

In Stover's letter of interest, she wrote that her experience there has provided "perspective into how law is interpreted, shaped and applied" on the Navajo Nation.

"My diverse experience would make me a unique addition," she wrote.

Stover added that in law school, she spent summers working for the Navajo-Hopi Legal Services Program under the tribe's Department of Justice and for the office of the late Sen. John McCain.

There was no academic information available for Laughing on Dec. 2.

Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne did not have any comment about the bills.

Under tribal law, the Navajo Nation president appoints the chief justice, associate justices and district court judges with confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council. Applicants are recommended by the tribal council's Law and Order Committee.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez appointed each one on Nov. 4.

The process for screening applications includes the review of applications and qualifications by the Judicial Conduct Commission.

The commission also interviews applicants, which were completed this year for Gilmore, Stover and Laughing.

In resolutions passed by the commission, it stated each one met the qualifications for appointment to the bench.

The bills, which were introduced on Nov. 27, are assigned to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and the Navajo Nation Council, where final authority rests.

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

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