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Claudine Bates-Arthur First Woman on Navajo Court

The Associated Press
    WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.— Navajo Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudine Bates-Arthur has died.
    The 62-year-old, who was the first female chief justice on the tribe's high court, died Saturday at her home in St. Michaels, according to her family.
    Bates-Arthur was the third chief justice in the court's 19-year history and was in private practice when she was appointed to the court in 2003 to succeed Robert Yazzie.
    She had served as the tribe's attorney general from 1983-1987 and was the chief legislative counsel from 1989-1995.
    Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan said the Navajo Nation lost one of its most outstanding citizens and public servants who had a "definite vision for the direction she wanted to take the Navajo judicial system."
    "Many of us were impressed with Bates-Arthur's enthusiasm for her work and for her commitment to enhancing Navajo sovereignty through tribal courts," he said. "Bates-Arthur advocated for the inclusion of Navajo values in the court system to meet the challenges that we on the Navajo Nation face."
    During her 2003 confirmation proceedings before the Navajo Nation Council, Bates-Arthur said: "Our Navajo court system must not only be good, it must be outstanding beyond question."
    She said tribal courts are "an absolute exercise in tribal sovereignty," and tribal officials must work to ensure their courts have credibility.
    The Ganado native graduated from Navajo Methodist Mission in Farmington in 1960 and went on to get her bachelor's degree from New Mexico State University. She earned her law degree from Arizona State University in 1974.
    To family members, her brother, council delegate LoRenzo Bates, said she was known as "a simple and humble person."
    Services were scheduled for today at the Presbyterian church in Ganado.