Farmington — Tribal officials have recommended former executive director of DNA People's Legal Services to become the chief legal counsel to the Navajo Nation Council.
Levon B. Henry was selected to become the council's top lawyer, a position that has been vacant since January 2011 when the Navajo Nation Supreme Court permanently disbarred then-chief legislative counsel Frank Seanez.
Speaker Johnny Naize is sponsoring the legislation to authorize Henry's appointment, which was posted last week on the council's website for public review and comment.
The bill will be eligible for committee action after today and was assigned to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and the council, where final authority rests.
"When reviewing the applicants for the chief legislative counsel position, we felt that Mr. Levon Henry was the most qualified and offered an extensive knowledge from his years of working with the Navajo government," Naize said in a statement.
Naize noted that Henry received support from members of the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee when the committee interviewed him on Feb. 13 in Window Rock, Ariz.
Henry did not respond to a request for comment about his appointment. But a copy of his employment application for the position was attached to the legislation.
Henry, 54, is a licensed attorney in New Mexico and with the Navajo Nation Bar Association.
He is originally from Naschitti and earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has a doctorate in law from the University of New Mexico.
From March 1999 to January 2003, Henry served as attorney general of the Navajo Nation. He then served as executive director of DNA People's Legal Services from September 2003 to May 2013.
The chief legislative counsel, who serves at the pleasure of the council, is the top administer for the Office of Legislative Counsel and provides legal advice and representation to the council, its standing committees and Legislative Branch programs.
The office operates independently from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice but coordinates with the justice department and other attorneys to provide legal services to the Navajo Nation.
If Henry is confirmed by the council, his responsibilities would include providing advice, representation, interpretation of law, research, analysis and representation in mediation and administrative hearings.
Other duties include drafting proposed legislation, reports, legal documents and correspondence for the council, completing the codification of tribal laws, rules and regulations, and developing an annual budget for the office.
He would also provide training and orientation in specific laws and areas on legal issues and perform complex legal research and analysis of laws, legal precedents and issues.
Henry was one of four individuals who applied for the job, according to a July 3 memorandum from the tribe's Department of Personnel Management that was attached to the bill.
"There were two other applicants who met the minimum qualifications, who are non-Navajo, however, under the Navajo Preference in Employment Act, any Navajo applicant who demonstrates the necessary qualifications, irrespective of the qualifications, must be selected," the memorandum stated.
The Navajo Preference in Employment Act mandates that employers conducting business within or near the boundaries of the Navajo Nation give preference in employment to Navajos.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.