Navajo Supreme Court finds Navajo Election Board in contempt of court

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Herb Yazzie said the court will announce its decision today and its written orders next week.

whenever high level officials called to court in contempt proceeding, we know that there is a governmental crisis and the consequences hve to be meaningful for the creation of that crisis especially when laws clear and explicite. we have heard motin and response on order to show cuase.

we find that government did not show cause why the government shud not be held in contempt. they offered nothing that wud demonstrte that they tried to comply with order. in fact in response of government, i will read you the last sentence to illusrate point, goverment says motin denied, and election continue on Nov. 4 wiht unaltered ballot for people to decide leader.

down to last brief and failure to show cause today, the government refuses to comply with the law and refuses to comply with court order, that is the finding of the court.

therefore, the court announces that the Navjo Board of Election of Supervisors is in contempt of court orders and Navajo laws. that is Navajo Board of Election Suprevisors.

Motion also addressed to Election Office Director Edison Wauneka and administration. before make that decision, i remember seeing Mr. Wauneka. Please come forward Mr. Wauneka.

Wauneka steps in fron of Suprme Court. We hold board that knowingly and failed to do its duties under election code. Mr. Wauneka the motion was also to hold you in contempt but certain things that court learned and so we need to ask questions of you. we noticed that legal advice from Navajo government to Board was made and one of the concerns and why makes more difficult is that Navajo government lawyers didn’t do analysis and determination whether Wauneka and Board acting outside authority when they set course they did. that is normal government duties so is government official sole respossible. they didn’t do analysis.

so ask Wauneka, there is existing court order and law, section 44, and the order and the law are mandatory in that the election is to be postponed, ballot would be changed. given finding of contempt here and prior decision, will you and staff comply with order?

In reference to how government set up, i have no choice but to comply with law. in responsibility as director, it is mandatory that i comply.

when u say u have to comply, are you saying you will postpone electoin, you will change ballot.

as far as cost, right now $102,000 spent and that is how much money go to waste. if possible to separate elections and have Nov. 4 electoin. not count presidential election. people that cast vote on absentee could still be counted. election on Nov. 4 cud be used. 97,000 ballots printed and ready to be picked up. that is where we are at.

if yuou make that adjustment, continue with election but leave out the electoin for president and postpone the election for presidency at later date, are you saying need additional funds?

$285,000 for special election at later date.

do you have proposal for legislative process?


where is that proposal?

in pro temp speaker office

on committee agenda?

for him to sponsor

We deny holding Wauneka in contempt. we have hearing on fees and costs where additional details will be brought up. now with finding Board in contempt, being in contempt of law, the Board per existing order that they have no authority to review laws and declare invalid, they are not to dictate to Mr. Wauneka with his compliance with law. they have no authority in this election. as i mentioned, we have a real troubling aspect to this whole proceeding.

first part is government lawyers, Office of Legislative Counsel and Attorney General’s Office, didn’t do analysis to determine if people comply with explicite law and court orders. but what we heard is that government lawyers sat by and maybe characterized as condoning illegal actions of clients and that is really troubling in this case. and now maybe the inaction in condoning illegal action was the desire for the position of certain lawyers or whole department but we see nothing presented today or in reocrd that shows that Board on course of defiance of law. That is very troubling when have legal advisorsallowing that. as government employees and lawyers, judges, we hae public trust that the laws of the people as they exist must be complied with. there is a set system in government for changing the law if you dont agree with law. you don’t allow something to occur and then argue why law shud change. that is what happened when reviewing actions and advice of government lawyers.

now we have heard from Mr. Wauneka. he is going to comply so therefore we need not issue another order to postpone or change the ballot.

having to be found in contempt what are the sanctions.

at start of proceeding we were very clear of possible consequences that could occur. the court has authority and jurisdiction and discretion to determine sanctions. this is difficult part of decision but we have to confront what presented – open defiance of court and law. we cannot allow that occur if this society is to live by the rule of law.

first thing do in terms of sanctions is Controller of Navajo Nation hereby ordered not to allow any expenditure from today for meetings of current Election Supervisors. now here is where we have to contemplate whether the sanctions asked for willbe given. one is strip board of government authority, other is detain in jail. the court will not order detention. and quite frankly when situation like open defiance and very public statements that Board does not bow to court, Board doesn’t care if placed in detention. we have public statements like that. the court will not create martyrs here. there has to be end to this problem.

we will outside court setting ask for explanation of government lawyers’ non-action. there are other rules of trustee and that will be done outside court proceedings.

we will now adjourn. it is now 1:25 p.m.

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