Navajo Supreme Court doesn’t invalidate Council resolution for referendum; Justices order election office to hold April 21 special election

The Navajo Nation Supreme Courted once again ordered the Navajo Election Administration to conduct the special election for presidency, Land Boards and the Election Board on April 21.

On March 18, attorneys Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne, who represent former tribal presidential candidates Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne, filed a motioin with the Supreme Court to invalidate the Navajo Council’s latest legislative attempt to postpone the April 21 election by funding a referendum first, instead of the April 21 election. The referendum was to change the tribal election law regarding the legal requirement for all presidential candidates to speak the Navajo language fluency.

The Supreme Court noted in their decision today that they were not invalidating the Council’s decision to have a referendum and to fund it.

Jordan and Jones also asked the tribal high court again to hold the Council delegates that voted in favor of the referendum to be held in contempt of court. The court denied that request.

The justices granted their request to order Navajo Election Administration Director Edison Wauneka to use $317,000 from the NEA budget to hold the April 21 election and to order the acting tribal controller to identify and transfer $317,000 into the election office budget.

The court also granted the petitioners’ request to protect Wauneka from being removed as election office director by the Council for complying with the court’s orders.

The justices stated their order, “This is the third time petitioners have had to ask this court to enforce the Navajo statutory election laws. On October 23, 2014, this court held that the 11 N.N.C. (Navajo Nation Code) section 44 requires a general election between the first place and third-place candidates when the second-place candidate was disqualified. See Opinion No. SC-CV-68-14 (October 23, 2014).

“On October 23, 2014, the decision became a final judgment of the Navajo Supreme Court and no party requested for its reconsideration pursuant to N.R.C.A.P. Rule 19. Under our version of separation of powers, such a judgment of the Supreme Court is now Navajo law and subject to enforcement,” they stated.

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