JoAnn Jayne takes the oath of office as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court in Window Rock, Arizona, on January 24, 2018. Photo: Navajo Nation Council

Two tribes bring in women for top positions in their court systems

Women are now holding the top judicial positions in two tribes, the Navajo Nation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

The Navajo Nation Council voted 17 to 3 on Wednesday to confirm JoAnn Jayne as the Chief Justice for the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. Jayne, who is a tribal citizen, will serve on the court for a probationary period of two years.

“I would like to see strong reasoning from your office that would confront the thinking of state and federal judges, and tell them they are wrong in their court opinions that disfavor the Navajo Nation, our laws, and our sovereignty," Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie told Jayne as she was sworn into office on Wednesday.

Jayne, who previously served as the chief appellate judge for the Crow Tribe, is the third woman to serve as the Navajo Nation's top jurist. As part of her duties, she administered the oath of office on Thursday to Rhonda Tuni, another new female judge on the reservation, which spans the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“The Law and Order Committee has been working hard to fill all of the judge positions," Delegate Edmund Yazzie said on Thursday.

"Last night we accomplished the goal of confirming a chief justice. I would encourage you to support her," Yazzie added. "We always want our young ones to fulfill their goals and I know she will be there for our people."

Claudette C. White, center, with leaders of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Photo: San Manuel Band

Over in California, the San Manuel Band announced Claudette C. White as the chief judge of the tribe's court system. White is a citizen of the Quechan Nation, where she also served as chief judge.

“We welcome Judge White to the San Manuel Tribal Court,” Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena said in a press release on Thursday. “She is a knowledgeable veteran of tribal courts with the breadth and depth of judicial experience that will contribute to continued growth of our courts.”

In addition to serving as a judge for her tribe for 11 years, White has been a judge for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Tonto Apache Tribe and the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

"I am extremely grateful to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for this opportunity to serve as their chief judge,” said White. “The chief judge is a position of great honor and responsibility for the court, and I thank the people of San Manuel for their faith in my abilities.”