9th Circuit reinstates lawsuit over Navajo court jurisdiction

Two non-Indian entities that do business on the Navajo Nation can challenge the tribe's jurisdiction, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

The Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District and Headwaters Resources own and operate a power plant on the reservation. Two employees of the Navajo Generating Station sued in tribal court after they were terminated, citing violations of tribal law.

The non-Indian entities disputed the tribe's jurisdiction but the Navajo Nation Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed. So the companies filed a lawsuit in federal court instead.

A federal judge dismissed the suit, saying it couldn't proceed without the involvement of the Navajo Nation. But, in a unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit disagreed and said the tribe wasn't a necessary party.

The case will return to the federal district court. The companies claim a 1969 lease and an act of Congress divest the tribe of jurisdiction.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Salt River Project v. Lee.

Get the Story:
Power Plant Can Fight Off Workers' Tribal Case (Courthouse News Service 3/15)

9th Circuit Decision:
Salt River Project v. Lee (March 15, 2012)

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