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Window Rock’s Focus Now on Yazzie

Window Rock’s Focus Now on Yazzie
May 06
10:17 2015
yazzie

Justice Herb Yazzie

By John Christian Hopkins

Things are not settling down in Window Rock, as you may have thought. The Navajo Nation’s Law & Order Committee has voted to send to the Nation’s Council, a measure to oust the Chief Justice, Herb Yazzie.

Chief Yazzie, who was at the center of the controversy surrounding the Navajo presidential election fiasco, was the subject of a resolution asking for his firing. That resolution had been passed by at least sixty chapters at last report.

Those who voted for the resolution are now getting what they wanted. The Navajo Nation Council will consider removing Chief Yazzie from office.

Dated March 24, 2015 Legislation # 0113-15 was sponsored by Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake). Mr. Tsosie spoke to Lake Powell Communications on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Law and Order Committee spent a lot of time on the legislation, which seeks to remove the Chief Justice from office,” said Mr. Tsosie.  “Today they decided to consider it.”

The committee’s vote was 2-0 with the Chairman Edmund Yazzie not voting. Therefore, though two (of the five) committee members weren’t there to vote, with a quorum of three, the vote was unanimous.

This move is not about trying to get ousted presidential candidate Chris Clark Deschene back into the political mix, Page resident Reuben D. Begay Sr. said.

“Deschene is out of it, he’s off doing his own thing,” Begay said. “This is about government transparency and ending corruption.”

In addition to ousting Yazzie, bills have been introduced to make all Navajo judgeships elected positions and to require judicial applicants to have a Doctor of Jurist degree, Begay said.

Those bills would be tacked on to the voter fluency referendum approved by council in March.

To get the legislation passed in time for the referendum, sponsors are requesting that the new bills bypass the Naabik’iyati’ Committee and go instead before the full council, Begay explained.

Tsosie said the bill to remove Yazzie is based on six allegations of malfeasance, misfeasance, and serious neglect of duty.

They include:

  • Inaction to establish a Judicial Conduct Commission despite receiving $100,000 in the current year’s budget
  • Violation of basic fundamental due process rights by finding a criminal offense against members of the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors, without formal complaint and without a hearing
  • Failure to designate a third justice on numerous occasions, as mandated by 7 N.N.C. §301 (A), which “prevents the Supreme Court from being supplied with additional legal analysis when addressing issues before the Court”
  • Violation of Navajo Nation laws and separation of powers, asserting authority over the Office of Hearings and Appeals (an executive branch entity), by appointing a District Court Judge to preside over a hearing before the Office of Hearings and Appeals
  • Failure to uphold Diné bi beenahaz’áanii, the laws of the Navajo Nation, by wrongfully interpreting the laws of the Nation causing unnecessary expenses, violation of people’s rights, uncertainties, overreaching (separation of powers violation), and confusion on the Navajo Nation and in the legal communities
  • Violation of separation of powers and due process of law by disbarring former Chief Legislative Counsel Frank Seanez, without referring the issue to the Navajo Nation Bar Association and denied a fair hearing. The allegation states that the Chief Justice was the accuser, the trier of fact, and the decision-maker in the case

LOC member Council Delegate Otto Tso (Tó Nanees Dizi) noted that the LOC has made several unsuccessful attempts to meet with Chief Justice Yazzie, and said the matter needs to move forward to the Council for consideration.

Legislation No. 0103-15 is merely a recommendation to council and would not remove Yazzie automatically, Tso added.

Nearly 400 comments in support of the move accompanied the bill, with 20 against it and five declared inconclusive.

Tsosie’s bill calls for a special session of the Navajo Nation Council to consider the recommendation to remove Herb Yazzie as the Chief Justice, and also recommends that the Speaker of the Council provide notice to the Chief Justice regarding the allegations in support of his removal and the date and time of the special session at which the matter will be heard.

A separate legislation is required for Council’s consideration for the removal of the Chief Justice.

“The (Navajo Nation) Council is the final authority on this,” added Tsosie. “It takes a two-thirds vote of the Council to remove him.”

That means sixteen of the twenty-four members need to vote to remove Yazzie from office, for it to be approved.

The Council’s speaker, LoRenzo Bates will now schedule a special session to take the matter up. While another special session is already scheduled to begin Tuesday May 19, Tsosie believes Bates will schedule another one or two day session for the purpose of keying in on Legislation # 0103-15.

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