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Judge rules in jurisdiction dispute over clinic

A federal judge has issued a 265-page opinion [PDF] in a case testing the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation over a health clinic located within reservation boundaries.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled that the tribe's court has jurisdiction over matters involving tribal members and certain non-Indians who enter into consensual relations with the tribe. But he denied jurisdiction over matters involving other non-Indians and local and county officials who had been brought into the dispute.

The case involved the Montezuma Creek Clinic in San Juan County, Utah. A group of former employees filed suit against the clinic and the county, which controlled the clinic at the time of the dispute and managed it with a state-controlled tribal trust account.

Jenkins said some of the claims of the former employees can continue but dismissed others due to lack of tribal court jurisdiction. He said he relied on U.S. Supreme Court precedents in Nevada v. Hicks, US v. Lara and Montana v. US.

The clinic is now operated by the Navajo Nation through a health care management firm.

Get the Story:
Tribal courts' power is limited (The Salt Lake Tribune 11/7)

Related Decision:
MACARTHUR v. SAN JUAN HEALTH SERVICES DISTRICT No. 014001 - 10/07/02 (10th Cir. October 7, 2002)

Related Stories:
Appeals court won't recognize tribal authority (10/15)
Tribe wants jurisdiction over clinic (01/15)