Diné College considering founding law school on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Diné College is considering whether to start a law school at its campus in Tsaile, Arizona. 

In a press release, the tribal college stated that discussion about developing such a program occurred during a symposium on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, where participants talked about accreditation, core courses and specializations, judicial advocates, traditional Navajo law and names for the law school.

Rex Lee Jim, director of the Navajo Sovereignty Institute at the college, will help organize an advisory committee for the school and will oversee the process as it moves forward, the release states.

Jim said the college is ready to start the task, and an area the school could specialize in is areas of Indian law specific to the economy of the Navajo Nation.

The college started in 1968, and if it establishes the law school, it would be the first tribal college to offer such a program.

"When the college was being built, they talked about starting a law school. We should have a law school. I think the Navajo Nation should have a role in this," college President Charles "Monty" Roessel said in the release.

Diné College President Charles "Monty" Roessel provides an update about the tribal college to the New Mexico Rural and Economic Development Committee at an Oct. 30, 2019 meeting in Farmington.

Those attending the symposium included Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne, retired Chief Justice Robert Yazzie and former President Peterson Zah.

Other attendees were Stacy Leeds, dean emeritus and professor of law at the University of Arkansas, Lindsay Robertson, faculty director of the Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy at the University of Oklahoma and Robert Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, Montana.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed a memorandum of agreement with the University of Arizona on Dec. 3 to establish the Navajo Law Fellowship Program in Tucson, Arizona.

Navajo Nation, University of Arizona join for law fellowship program

The news about Diné College comes after the Navajo Nation signed a memorandum of agreement this month with the University of Arizona to establish the Navajo Law Fellowship Program.

The program is designed with the goal of increasing the number of Navajo students who graduate from law school and creating pathways to legal careers, according to a press release from the tribe's Office of the President and Vice President.

The program would be housed under the James E. Rogers School of law at the university's campus in Tucson, Arizona.

The release states the tribe's scholarship and financial assistance office and the university will partner to match financial aid awards to Navajo students who are participating in the program.

Details about the program included areas of focus for first-year, second-year and third-year students, including studying the Navajo Nation legal system and Navajo law.

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.

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