Navajo Rules of Appellate Procedure Cite as N.R.A.P.


These rules became effective April 1, 1978.  From 1978 to 1987, criminal and civil appeals were governed by these rules.  Criminal appeals are still governed by these rules.  See, Lee v. Navajo Nation, 6 Nav. R. 124, 2 Nav. A.R. 79 (Nav. Sup. Ct. 1989).  All civil appeals are now governed by the Navajo Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure as of March 1, 1987.


These are unannotated rules.  For the annotated rules, see NAVAJO NATION PRACTICE BOOK, Fourth Edition, T&B Publishing.


RULE 1.     Scope of Rules.

These rules, adopted by unanimous vote of the District Judges of the Navajo Nation, shall govern the procedures in all cases in the Court of Appeals and shall become effective on April 1, 1978.



RULE 2.     Filing of Appeal.

a)        All appeals shall originate by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Clerk of the Court of Appeals in writing, including with it a brief explaining the grounds for the appeal.  A certified copy of the judgment or order being appealed, signed by the judge and dated, must be attached to the Notice of Appeal and a ten dollar filing fee must be paid at the time of filing.


b)        The Clerk shall not accept any appeal for filing and no appeal shall be considered filed until the fee has been paid and a copy of the final judgment has been attached.


No filing fee shall be required for an appeal from a criminal conviction or from a judgment of the Juvenile Court which would have constituted a criminal conviction in the case of an adult.


c)         The Notice of Appeal, the brief, the fee and the copy of the final judgment shall be filed with the Clerk within thirty calendar days of the date of the final judgment or order being appealed was entered in the record by the District Court.  No extension of time within which to file the appeal shall be granted, and no appeal file after the expiration of the thirty day period shall be allowed.


d)        When the Notice has been prepared, the appellant shall file a copy of the Notice of Appeal with the District Court and shall have this copy dated by the clerk.  The District Court shall be notified of the appeal in the above manner no later than the same day the Notice of Appeal is filed with the Court of Appeals.


e)         No appeal shall be allowed in any criminal case in which the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment or labor for less than fifteen days or a fine of less than $26, or both.


Note: Rule 2(e) is invalidated per Navajo Nation v. Browneyes, 1 Nav. R. 300 (Nav. Ct. App. 1978).



RULE 3.     Appeals in Forcible Entry and Detainer Cases.

In an appeal from a judgment in a proceeding in forcible entry and detainer (Title 16 N.T.C. §§ 751 to 760) the procedure shall be the same as herein provided for appeals in general except that within five days from the entry of judgment the appellant must file with the District Court an appeal bond as provided in Title 16 N.T.C. § 757.  This bond shall be forwarded to the Clerk of the Court of Appeals with the case record.



RULE 4.     Appeals in Juvenile Cases.

An appeal from a judgment of the Navajo Juvenile Court shall follow the same procedure as provided herein for appeals in general except that the name of the child shall not appear in the record on appeal.  If the order or decree appealed from districts a change of custody of a child, the appeal shall be given priority on the Appeals Court docket.


The Juvenile Court in its discretion may order a stay of its order in the juvenile case pending the appeal if the Juvenile Court considers such a delay to be for the best interests of the child. (Title 9 N.T.C. §§ 661 and 662).



RULE 5.     Scope of Appeal.

a)        An appeal may be on a question of law or as a trial de novo.


b)        If the Court of Appeals grants a request for a trial de novo, the Court will hear new evidence, make new findings of fact, and issue a new judgment without regard to any findings or judgment entered by the District Court.


c)         If the appeal is on a question of law or is so limited by the Court of Appeals, the Court will not hear new evidence and shall decide the appeal entirely on the record, the briefs, and the oral argument.


d)        No appeal shall be heard unless the appellant has filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the District Court, which shall rule within five days.


Note: The Rule 5(d) motion for reconsideration must be filed with the district court before the notice of appeal is filed or can be filed on the same day as the notice of appeal. There is no time limit on when the motion must be filed after the judgment. However, a motion for reconsideration is deemed automatically denied if the trial court fails to rule on the motion within 5 days of its filing. There are 2 pre-requisites to filing a criminal appeal: (1) the notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days of the judgment; and (2) the 5-day ruling period for the district court to act on the motion for reconsideration must have expired.  Navajo Nation v. John No. SC-CR-01-09 (Nav. Sup. Ct. Oct 30, 2009).



RULE 6.     Service and Answer.

a)        The Notice of Appeal and any motions or other papers filed in support of an appeal shall be served n the opposing party or his counsel of record.  Delivery shall be by personal service or by certified mail.  [Appellant] or his counsel shall certify in writing on the original of each document filed with the Court of Appeals that such service has been made and on what date the service was made.


b)         The appellee shall have twenty days from the date of such service to file a motion opposing the appeal or a brief answering the appellant’s arguments or both.  If the motion opposing the appeal is denied, appellee shall have an additional ten days to submit a brief on the merits, if none has been submitted, the time to run from the date of the order denying the motion.



RULE 7.     Notice of Hearings- Subpoenas.

a)         It shall be the responsibility of each counsel of record to ensure the appearance of his party and witnesses (in appropriate cases) at all hearings before the Court of Appeals, except that the Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall subpoena such witnesses as either party may request for a trial de novo.  The counsel shall give the Clerk the list of persons to be subpoenaed and their addresses at least fifteen days before the hearing date.


b)         All notices and orders from the Court of Appeals shall be given to only a party’s counsel of record unless the party has no counsel.



RULE 8.     Stay of Execution.

a)         The appellant may file with the District Court a motion for a stay of execution of any judgment or order at the same time the Notice of Appeal is filed with the District Court pursuant to Rule 2(d) or at any time thereafter.  If the Court denies the motion, it shall set forth its reasons in writing.


b)         A stay of execution in a criminal case may be upon the defendant’s own recognizance or upon a bail bond agreement, as the District Court may direct.  A stay in a civil case may be upon an appeal bond, or otherwise, as the District Court may require.


c)         All documents, orders, and other papers filed in the District Court relating to the stay of execution shall be included in the case file and forwarded on appeal.


d)         If the District Court denies the motion for a stay, and only in such case, a petition for a stay may be filed with the Court of Appeals, which may grant the stay as provided in Part (b) above.  A copy of the order of the District Court denying the stay shall be attached to the petition to the Court of Appeals for such a stay.  If the District Court grants the stay, a copy of such order shall be added to the Notice of Appeal filed with the Clerk of the Court of Appeals.  The clerk of the District Court shall forward a cop of the Stay of Execution to the Court of Appeals.



RULE 9.     Record on Appeal.

a)         As soon as the copy of the Notice of Appeal has been filed with the district court and a stay of execution granted or denied, the clerk of the District Court shall forward to the clerk of the Court of Appeals a record of the case consisting of the following:


1)         the case file, containing all original papers filed and orders entered in the case and the electronic recordings of the proceedings,


2)         a written transcript, only if requested by the Clerk of the Court of Appeals,


3)         The certificate of the district court clerk that the file (and transcript, if applicable) is complete and accurate,


4)         The order granting the stay of execution and setting conditions, if any, or the order denying the stay.


b)      When an appeal has been decided, the Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall return the District Court file as provided in Rule 11.



RULE 10.   Hearings.

a)         The Chief Justice may disqualify himself on motion of one of the parties or on his own motion.  When the Chief Justice disqualifies himself, the Acting Chief Justice shall preside over the case.


b)         The hearing of all appeals shall be in open court before a panel consisting of the Chief Justice and two associate justices named by the Chief Justice.  No judge who heard a case on the merits in the District Court shall be named to hear an appeal of the same case.  All trials de novo shall be without a jury.


c)         If either party fails to appear at the time set for the hearing of the appeal, the Court may hear the evidence or the argument presented by the party so appearing and decide the appeal on the basis of such presentation and the briefs submitted.


d)        If both parties or their counsel so stipulate, the Court may decide the appeal on the basis of the briefs alone.



RULE 11.   Mandate on Appeal.

The Court of Appeals shall render its decision in writing within thirty days of the date of oral argument or entry of stipulations pursuant to Rule 10.  Such written decision shall constitute the final judgment of the Court.  When a case is reversed or remanded with directions, the written decision of the Court of Appeals shall constitute a mandate to the district court to carry out the judgment of the Court of Appeals.


The Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall mail or deliver to the District Court clerk a certified cop of the Court’s decision along with the District Court’s case file.



RULE 12.   Motions for Rehearing and Other Motions Filed After Judgment.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals shall be filed as of the date it is given.  Any motion for rehearing, motion for clemency or other motion or petition filed after the Court of Appeals has given its judgment shall be allowed only upon consideration by a panel of three judges.  When any such motion or petition is filed, the Chief Justice may deny it or if he considers it of sufficient importance, he may set it for hearing.  Any such motion or petition shall be regularly scheduled for a hearing at which both the appellant and respondent have been notified and are represented.  No single judge shall have any authority to modify the judgment or to order any temporary stay of execution.



RULE 13.   Appeal After a Plea of Guilty.

No trial de novo shall be allowed on an appeal from a judgment entered on a plea of “guilty”.  If a defendant pleads “guilty” and afterwards believes the plea was by mistake, he may apply to the District Court for permission to change his plea to “not guilty” and have a trial on the issues in the district court.  If the District Court denies the motion to change the plea, the order denying the motion may be appealed to the Court of Appeals.  Also, an appeal may be taken after a plea of guilty and a judgment and sentence on the plea under Rule 5 on a question of law as to the legality of the sentence or judgment, provided that the defendant has first applied to the District Court to correct the judgment or sentence as provided in Rule 5(d).



RULE 14.   Heabas Corpus.

a)         The Court of Appeals will take original jurisdiction in a habeas corpus proceeding if necessary.  The writ of habeas corpus will be denied if there is an adequate remedy by appeal or if there is an adequate remedy by motion in the District Court or habeas corpus in the District Court.


b)         An action of habeas corpus shall be commenced by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the clerk.  If the petition is in proper form, the Chief Justice shall then sign and issue the writ of habeas corpus directing the person having custody of the person detained to appear in the Court of Appeals on a certain date and bring the detained person with him and show cause why the person should not be released.


c)         The return date on the writ of habeas corpus shall be given priority on the Appeals Court docket and the case shall be set for hearing for as early a date as possible.  The person holding custody shall be served with the writ by the Navajo Police, or the Chief Justice may appoint some person not a party to the case to make immediate service.  The clerk shall notify the petitioner of the date set for hearing.


d)        All habeas corpus proceedings in the Court of Appeals shall be heard by the Chief Justice and two associate justices.  Neither the Chief Justice nor any other Justice shall sign an order releasing the person being held prior to a hearing on the writ.



RULE 15.   Publication of Opinions.

The Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall keep a file of all opinions of the Court of Appeals and such opinions shall be published or otherwise made available to the trial judges and to all counselors and advocates practicing before the Navajo courts and shall constitute the case law for the Navajo Nation.


The cost of providing the written opinions shall be borne by the person requesting the opinions except that no charge will be made to any personnel of the Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation.


RULE 16.   Mandamus and Other Special Proceedings.

The Court of Appeals will take original jurisdiction in proceedings for a writ of mandamus or a writ o[f] prohibition or in other special proceedings only when it appears that no remedy is available from a District Court.



RULE 17.   All Motions Orders and Proceedings to be in Writing.

All requests for appeal, petitions, motions, stipulations, orders and other actions taken by or before the Court of Appeals must be in writing and properly dated and signed, except motions, stipulations, and orders made during a hearing or trial.



RULE 18.   Pre-Trial Procedure.

In any proceeding the Court may, in its discretion, direct the counsel for the parties to appear before the Court for a conference prior to the trial date to consider:


a)         Simplifying the issues.


b)         Amending the complaint or answer to make a clearer statement of the case.


c)         The possibility of getting either side [to] admit facts or documents which will avoid unnecessary proof.


d)         The possible limitations of the number of witnesses covering the same facts.


e)          The issues or points of law which are to be considered.


The pre-trial conference shall be with the Chief Justice.


The Chief Justice may, in his discretion, require the counsel to prepare and present a pre-trial order covering the matters agreed upon at the pre-trial conference.



RULE 19.   Withdrawal of Counsel.

Whenever counsel has once filed papers in an appeal, such counsel shall not be allowed to withdraw from the appeal except by order of the Chief Justice upon written motion stating good cause and naming new counsel.


RULE 20.   Computation of Time.

In computing any time limits required by these rules, by order of the Court of Appeals, or by any applicable law, the day of the act, event, or judgment shall not be included.  The last day of the period so computed is to be included unless it is a Saturday, Sunday, or court holiday, in which case the period shall extend to the end of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or court holiday.



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