The Navajo Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27, in the Great Hall in Armstrong Hall.
The hearing is open to the public.
A three-judge panel will hear the case, Tso v. Navajo Housing Authority, concerning the Authority's immunity from execution of a judgment issued by the Navajo Nation Labor Commission.
The judges are Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, a 1975 alumnus of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Associate Justice Lorene Ferguson and District Judge T.J. Holgate.
The Navajo Supreme Court hears cases at several universities across the country each year, and this year has visited Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the University of Vermont and plans to visit American University in Washington, D.C.
Ferguson said the visits help raise awareness and respect for tribal courts.
"An awful lot of people throughout the nation are not aware of tribal courts and the importance of tribal courts," Ferguson said. "They're not aware we have a government and courts, and this helps them understand."
Ferguson said the visits also make students aware of the field of Indian law.
"Even if they're not Native American students, they can become interested in Indian law and end up working in federal Indian law, tribal courts, federal courts or as clerks for federal judges," she said.
Paul Spruhan, a law clerk for the Navajo Supreme Court, said the case involves a question of whether the Navajo Housing Authority must pay a claim for wrongful termination won by Tso through the Navajo Nation Labor Association.
The Authority is claiming sovereign immunity as a federal agency and as a tribal entity, and claims it should not have to pay the judgment, Spruhan said.
Yazzie comes from the community of Dennehotso, Táb??hí clan, born for Kin?ichíi'nii, Tó'áhaní (maternal grandparents) and Tódích'íi'nii (paternal grandparents). He was confirmed as Chief Justice by the Navajo Nation Council on April 21, 2005.
An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Yazzie served as attorney for DNA People's Legal Services and was legal counsel for the Kayenta Township. He was a school board member in his community and later a member of the Executive Board of the Navajo Area School Board Association. He also served the Navajo Nation as its Attorney General and as its Chief Legislative Counsel and was an attorney for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Ferguson, a 1983 alumna of the University of New Mexico law school, was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation. She was appointed associate justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court on October 15, 2001.
After law school, Ferguson returned to the Navajo Reservation as a law clerk and staff attorney for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. She was appointed as a District Court judge in 1992. She has served as faculty for the Judicial College in Reno, Nevada on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Peacemaking.
T.J. Holgate, filling in for a vacancy on the Supreme Court, was confirmed as a Navajo Nation judge on Jan. 7, 2007, and has presided over the Window Rock District and Family courts for more than 10 years. His primary caseload includes district civil actions, family civil actions and domestic violence matters. Before his appointment to the bench, Judge Holgate worked with Navajo Nation Legal Aid and Defender Services (which later became the Office of the Navajo Public Defender) and for 14 years with DNA Peoples Legal Services. Holgate earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Northern Arizona University and has been an active member of the Navajo Nation Bar Association for more than 20years.