Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay reflects on 2007 Judiciary Committee highlights

WINDOW ROCK - Navajo Nation Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. (Many Farms/Round Rock), chair of the Judiciary Committee, is proud of the many accomplishments of the Committee in 2007. Begay is excited to report a few highlights of the past year and is looking forward to the challenges in 2008.

The Judiciary Committee is one of 12 committees that provide direction and oversight to Navajo Nation programs. The Committee provides oversight to the Judicial Branch, one of three branches of the Navajo Nation government.

The Committee's mission is to provide adequate and efficient judicial services to the Navajo Nation.

Among the highlights of the Judiciary Committee in 2007 was the permanent appointments of several judges, including Chief Justice Herb Yazzie with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. Yazzie was appointed by a vote of 64-2; the legislation was sponsored by Begay.

Begay also sponsored legislation to appoint five District Court judges to permanent appointments. The judges included: Irene S. Black, Genevieve Woody, Rudy I. Bedonie, Carol K. Perry and Louise Grant.

The Committee also heavily lobbied the 21st Navajo Nation Council for an increase in the 2008 General Funding allocations for the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch.

In other lobbying efforts, the Committee successfully secured $2 million for the Dilkon court facility from the Arizona State Legislature. The state of Arizona will appropriate $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 and will appropriate another $1 million in 2009, which brings a combined total of $2 million from the state legislature. Matching funds of an additional $2 million was also secured from the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court facility is also in the works. The Committee is requesting $11.6 million from the U.S. Congress. The Navajo Nation Council also appropriated $1.5 million for preconstruction activity for the Supreme Court facility as well.

The Committee was also successful in initiating a one-cent sales tax increase for the Judicial/Public Safety Facilities Fund, which will help in funding five judicial and public safety facilities in agencies around the Navajo Nation.

The Council passed this legislation during its 2007 winter session. The Fund Management Plan is currently in place for the utilization of the sales tax funds.

Begay also said that another highlight of the year was the establishment of District Courts in Aneth, Utah and in Pinon. The Pinon facility is currently in the planning stages.

The Committee also had several key meetings with state officials this past year. On April 10, the Committee met with Governor Janet Napolitano regarding funding for the Dilkon court facility, and also met with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. on June 28 to request $6 million from the Utah State Legislature for the Aneth Court facility.

Begay also explained that U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) continues to support the Navajo Nation on national issues and has supported issues related to tribal justice and its funding issues. The Committee met with Renzi April 12.

The Committee hosted a meeting regarding the Diné Fundamental Law on June 15 at Diné College in Tsaile. A subcommittee under the Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing the law and is formulating their recommendations.

Delegate Begay said that the Judiciary Committee was successful in many areas in the past year, but was unsuccessful in obtaining funds from the Navajo Nation Permanent Trust Fund in the amount of $153 million. This money would have been used for the construction of several Judicial/Public Safety facilities on the reservation.

"The Judiciary Committee has been extremely busy," Begay said. "We are hard at work for the Navajo people and we will continue our hard work into the New Year."

For more information, contact Joshua Lavar Butler with the Office of the Speaker at (928) 871-6384.

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