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Navajo Supreme Court Rules in Habeas Corpus Case December 10, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in Navajo Supreme Court, Tribal Courts.

In the Matter of L.R. v. Greyeyes, No. SC-CV-39-07, (Nav. Sup. Ct. Nov. 21, 2007)

Issue(s): Habeas Corpus > Juvenile Code; Habeas Corpus > Remedies

According to the Navajo Children’s Code, a delinquency petition shall be dismissed if the petition is not filed within 30 days. 31 days lapsed between the referral and filing of the petition. L.R. subsequently pleaded guilty. Given that the proceedings below failed to comply with the Code, can the Court vacate the subsequent conviction?

The Navajo Children’s Code also states that a delinquency petition shall be filed within 48 hours if the juvenile is taken into custody. Police arrested L.R. on a curfew violation on August 10. Later that day, a hearing was held concerning prior charges, but not the curfew violation. That hearing was held on August 15. In the interim, L.R. was in detention. Was L.R. illegally detained?

As to the first question, the Navajo Supreme Court said yes. Normally, the only remedy for habeas corpus petitioners is release from illegal detention. The Court, however, crafted an exception in this case. Because the statute clearly mandated dismissal after 30 days without filing, the Court said it would vacate the convictions.

The Court also affirmatively answered the second question. Recognizing that children are not fully mature and run a “gamut of emotions” while in custody, the Court strictly construed the Code. The hearing on the previous charges could not be substituted for the requirement that a court hold a hearing on the curfew violation. Thus, L.R. was illegally detained and the Court vacated the curfew conviction.



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