Tribal judge denies Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize's complaint

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A Window Rock District Court judge denied the preliminary injunction Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize was seeking against tribal lawmakers.

In April, Naize filed a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction after 12 council delegates placed him on paid administrative leave. The council on April 4 placed Naize on leave after the tribe's special prosecutor filed bribery and conspiracy charges last year against Naize.

District Court Judge Carol Perry issued the eight-page decision on Friday.

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.

Bates said in a statement that the court's decision allows the council to move forward.

"The Navajo Nation Council as a whole respected its duties and responsibilities to act in the best interest and benefit of the Navajo people," Bates said, adding the Legislative Branch and the council will continue to move forward.

Perry issued her decision after efforts to have the parties resolve the matter in the tribe's Peacemaking Program failed.

In May, the court referred the case to peacemaking, at Naize's request, and set a May 31 deadline for the parties to meet. According to court documents, only five individuals responded, and two agreed to engage in peacemaking.

"While all the individuals involved displayed interest in peacemaking at one point or another, it cannot work without a voluntary agreed-upon willingness to participate together at all," Perry wrote.

In her decision, Perry stated she was alarmed by the actions of another 11 council delegates. Those delegates — not the same group named in the injunction — walked out of the council chambers without voting on April 4 on whether or not to place Naize on leave. She called the action "an outstanding concern of this court."

In a review of legislative history, Perry wrote that in 1972, council delegates viewed absenteeism as disrespectful.

"The Navajo Nation Council's major role is to set future precedent through development of law which properly reflect the principles by which the nation chooses to provide for its government and citizens," Perry wrote.

She added the people trust the elected leadership to participate in such proceedings.

"In this case, a time and place to vote was designated yet several members of council did not participate," Perry wrote.

She concluded the order by explaining the customary behavior among Navajo people is to greet others with a handshake, which acknowledges the relationship. A handshake is also extended when the exchange or relationship ends.

"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 wrote.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and

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