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Navajo Tell State Judge to Butt Out

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - The Navajo Nation sued a New Mexico state judge in Federal Court to prevent him from presiding over a wrongful death lawsuit.

Judge Robert A. Aragon of New Mexico's Eleventh Judicial District in Gallup is assigned to hear the case brought by Rosemarie Vandever regarding the wrongful death of Lara Sanders.

The civil case names the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, among others, as contributing to Sanders' death.

But the Navajos claim that the New Mexico state court has no jurisdiction over the case under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Navajo claim that they and their casino need recognize state jurisdiction only in "matters relating to the licensing and regulation of tribal gaming activities," and therefore retain sovereign immunity in this case.

They claim the wrongful death trial must be conducted on the Navajo Nation, in tribal courts.

They seek an injunction to prevent the civil trial from moving forward in state court. If the injunction is not granted, the trial for the wrongful death case is scheduled to start on November 3.

The plaintiffs are represented by Patrick Mason of Mason & Isaacson in Gallup.

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