Chief Justice Herb Yazzie retires May 15

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation announced the retirement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, effective May 15.

Yazzie served as the chief justice of the Navajo Nation since April 21, 2005. He has also served as the chief legislative counsel and as the attorney general in 1990 and from 1993 to 1998. He is a 1975 graduate of Arizona State University College of Law and a member of the Utah State Bar and the Navajo Nation Bar Association. Yazzie is also a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Members of the Law and Order Committee May 5 approved a bill recommending the removal of Yazzie as chief justice of Navajo Nation, based on six allegations of malfeasance, misfeasance, and serious neglect of duty.

A summary of the six allegations included:

• failure 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.

Committee members voted 2-0 in support of the bill. They emphasized that (the bill) was simply a recommendation to the council and did not remove Yazzie as the chief justice.


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