After a day-long hearing today, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ordered the tribal Office of Hearings and Appeals to qualify or disqualify tribal presidential candidate Chris Deschene within five days.
The tribal Supreme Court heard the appeals of the Office of Hearing and Appeals’ dismissal of two election complaints filed against Deschene by presidential candidates Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne in the Tuba City, Ariz., District Court today, Sept. 26.
The OHA dismissed the complaints, which alleged that Deschene was not qualified to be a presidential candidate because he couldn’t speak the Navajo language fluently, because the complaints were filed after an election law deadline.
During a press conference after today’s official signing of a $554 million federal trust mismanagement settlement agreement between Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Window Rock, Ariz., Shelly predicted that the tribal high court would concur with the OHA’s dismissal of the election complaints against Dechene.
The following is a Navajo Nation Judicial Branch press release about the tribal Supreme Court decision today.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: September 26, 2014
NAVAJO NATION SUPREME COURT REMANDS GRIEVANCE TO OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS
The Navajo Nation Supreme Court reinstated and remanded grievances filed against Christopher C. Deschene to the Office of Hearings and Appeals to determine whether or not to disqualify him as a candidate for the office of Navajo Nation President. The Court ordered that OHA hold a hearing within five business days.
The Court said that the OHA erred in summarily dismissing the grievances filed by Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne.
The Court found that the qualification for fluency is a reasonable regulation to a candidate’s right to political liberty and that it is the freedom of the people that the sacred Diné language be taught and preserved.
The Court also clarified the election law by providing a definition of being fluent in the Navajo language. The Court instructed OHA to apply that clarified law in its hearing to determine whether candidate Deschene meets the fluency requirement.
After issuing the decision, the justices explained that the basis for their decision utilized Diné bi beenahaz’áannii.
The Court heard oral arguments in the consolidated cases of Dale E. Tsosie v. Christopher C. Deschene, No. SC-CV-57-14, and Hank Whitethorne v. Christopher C. Deschene, No. SC-CV-58-14, on Friday, September 26, 2014, at the Tuba City Judicial District Court.