Navajo Nation Supreme Court acted appropriately

Letter to the editor: The 2014 Navajo presidential election should be held as soon as possible and tribal officials need to honor the rulings of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court in establishing an election date and ordering the Controller to pay for the election.

As Navajo people we have always been taught that the number four is a sacred number and that there is a reason for holding the elections every four years so the people can live in harmony with their leaders. I also believe that elected and appointed officials must conform with the highest standards of conduct and have a fiduciary duty to hold timely elections and prudently manage the People's money.

I further believe that it is a violation of our (the people's) civil rights under the Navajo Bill of Rights and the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act to deny Navajo voters the right to vote. Therefore, it is appalling, indeed sickening and disgusting, that certain legislators of the Navajo Nation have hijacked the 2014 presidential election and want to change the election rules to allow an unqualified candidate to run more than five months after the election should have been held.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has acted appropriately and within its jurisdiction in accordance with statutory law to rule that Chris Deschene is not qualified to be a presidential candidate and, therefore, the election should be held between Joe Shirley, Jr., and Russell Begaye. Also, in accordance with statutory law requiring that a presidential candidate be fluent, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court appropriately upheld a decision of the Office of Hearing and Appeals disqualifying Chris Deschene for failing to cooperate in a hearing to determine if he was indeed fluent. It is also ironic that his supporters are utilizing every political means necessary to remove the Navajo language requirement when he supposedly speaks Navajo. Why remove a law if he can meet its threshold? The Deschene supporters have now targeted the most stable branch of our government in retaliation. It is uncanny for certain Navajo Nation legislators to now blame the Navajo Supreme Court for upholding the very laws that it adopted and swore to protect and uphold.

I was one of the voters who cast a vote for a presidential candidate other than Chris Deschene in the primary election held in August 2014. There is a vast majority of voters who voted for a candidate other than Deschene. These voters have yet to have their votes counted in a final 2014 presidential election, because legislators keep postponing the presidential election in attempts to reinstate Deschene as a candidate and ignore long-standing election laws and the decisions of the Supreme Court.

I sincerely want all this chaos to end and hopefully the Supreme Court will deny the Petition for Reconsideration by legislative counsel and the Motion to Intervene by acting President Shelly. The Supreme Court needs to uphold its March 20, 2015, order that the acting controller and the Navajo Nation Department of Justice pay for the April 21, 2015 presidential election, or to otherwise to order these officials to pay for the election using the Contingency Management Fund.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court acted properly and within its jurisdiction in entering the March 20, 2015 order. What is at stake here is the enforcement of a valid and final Supreme Court order that was entered after all election challenges were exhausted and the court ordered the Election Administration to hold the presidential election on a date certain.

Enforcement of a final order of the court has nothing to do with legislation enacted by the Navajo Nation Council after that order is entered. The Navajo Nation Council is, or should be, aware that prior councils, in enacting the Judicial Reform Act of 1985, acknowledged its lack of authority to review or overrule Navajo Nation Supreme Court decisions.

To reiterate, this proceeding involves only the enforcement of a valid, final court order and CMA-06-15 is not in issue before the court and the Navajo Nation Council cannot request relief from the order. That legislation, if valid, authorizes a referendum that can be held at a later time after the election of a president and that referendum can establish rules for the future, but it cannot in any way alter the adjudication that has taken place or the rights of the voters to choose the candidate of their choice at the April 21, 2015 election.

Acting President Shelly is a mere caretaker of the Office of President, has a conflict of interest, and should have no say in this matter. Ben Shelly was soundly rejected by the voters in the primary election (7th place), to continue to serve as acting president until a new president is sworn in.

Now he is complicit in the enactment of CMA-06-15, which is likely unlawful, and wants to impede the April 21, 2015, election, because he says he wants to uphold the laws of the Navajo Nation. His motion to intervene should be denied.

It is the ultimate irony that the same people who waste the people's money by continually waiving or ignoring laws, rules, procedures and even the Appropriations Act now want to honor the fine print of the Appropriations Act. The money required to pay for the presidential election is the money that belongs to the people, not to the elected or appointed officials, and the court has all the authority necessary to order that public officials use the people's money pay for the election.

The election laws without question are the most important laws of the Navajo Nation because it is the foundation of Navajo democratic government. The Supreme Court may issue any reasonable order including the use of appropriated moneys to pay the expenses of an election. After all, the Navajo Nation government has an absolute obligation to fund the Navajo Nation general and presidential elections and Contingency Management Funds may be used for this entirely lawful purpose.

Julius Elwood

Crownpoint, New Mexico


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