The Ute Indian Tribe has appointed a Provo attorney to replace Associate Tribal Judge Larry Yazzie, who was dismissed this past summer by the tribe's governing body.
Anthony Famulary was sworn in recently by the Tribal Business Committee. He will oversee tribal court cases under the direction of Chief Tribal Judge Norma Jean Gray.Yazzie, a Navajo attorney, was dismissed by the committee last July on the grounds of gross misconduct.
His dismissal came just two months after he found the Business Committee in contempt of court for failing to comply with an earlier court order to pay more than $500 million in back dividends to 15 new tribal members.
He also fined council members $250 dollars each every two weeks until they complied with the payment order.
Speaking in his defense last week before tribal members, Yazzie said his dismissal only undermined tribal government. He said that by failing to comply with his decision, the council has acted as the defendant, prosecutor and judge all rolled into one.
But Tribal Chairman Lester Cha-poose said Yazzie failed to recognize the tribal constitution and the binding voice tribal workers have in their government.
According to court documents, a year and a half ago the business committee did pass a resolution approving payment of the back dividend. The resolution was invalidated, however, when tribal members voted in a referendum election against issuing the retroactive payments.
In obedience to the referendum, the committee discontinued its efforts to pay back dividends.
Attorneys for the 15 plaintiffs have filed a notice of claim in Salt Lake's U.S. District Court seeking to have the tribal court judgment enforced.
To prevent this situation from happening again, the committee added an amendment to their law and order code which prohibits tribal courts from having jurisdiction over any claims against the Ute Tribe or business committee members.