WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - A Window Rock District judge denied Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize's request for an injunction against tribal council members who voted to place him on administrative leave June 20.
In April, the Navajo Nation Council voted 12-0 to place Naize on administrative leave in response to charges filed against him by the special prosecutors for bribery and conspiracy. Eleven council members left the chamber before the vote took place.
In response Naize filed the complaint against Speaker Pro Tem LoRenzo Bates, Council Delegates Alton Joe Shepherd, Nelson BeGaye, Russell Begaye, Joshua Lavar Butler, Lorenzo Curley, Jonathan Hale, Jonathan Nez, Leonard Pete, Danny Simpson, Leonard Tsosie and Dwight Witherspoon and Office of Legislative Services Executive Director Tom Platero.
Naize said the council "improperly changed the intent and purpose of the legislation that was originally drafted to completely remove him as speaker to placing him on administrative leave."
On May 7, the court referred the case to the Peacemaking Program. On May 30, the Peacemaking Program informed the court that because not all of the parties wanted to engage in peacemaking that it could not proceed. The case was referred back to the district court.
In her decision, Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry said it was an "outstanding concern" of the court that 11 council members walked out of the council chambers without voting stating that amendments to the Navajo Nation government statutes show that the council has a historically honored duty to their constituents.
"The people need to trust that participation on their behalf will occur," Perry said in her decision. "In this case, a time and place to vote was designated yet several members of the council did not participate."
She likened the council members walking out to Navajo ceremonial process where it is inappropriate for key participants to walk out prior to completion because of the dangers such actions may place upon the beneficiaries of the ceremony.
The quorum law as stated by Perry reads, "A quorum shall consist of a simple majority of all voting members of the Navajo Nation Council." While normally it takes two-thirds of the council, 16 votes, to remove the speaker, Naize was placed on administrative leave, not removed.
Bates commended the judge and said that the council can take on its duties and responsibilities to act in the best interests and benefit of the Navajo people.
"Today's action by the Window Rock District Court allows the Navajo Nation Council to move forward in addressing the many important issues facing our Nation," Bates said. "As I have stated previously, the Legislative Branch and the Navajo Nation Council continue to move forward."
Perry said in her decision that in Diné cultural practice when a Diné person appears at a public event, ceremony or otherwise, it is customary that one greets others with a handshake and acknowledge their relationship. Furthermore, when the event is ending, hands are shaken again addressing the person by their relationship but never saying goodbye. She said these practices strengthen relations.
"While it is understood that relationships become strained from time to time, it is always the expectation that by parting on a positive note, future relations will again occur in harmony," Perry said.