Navajo Nation Supreme Court dismisses Chris Deschene's motion

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed on Monday by Chris Deschene, who continues to campaign for the tribal presidency.

Deschene's appeal asked the high court to overturn a ruling by the Navajo Office of Hearings and Appeals that disqualified him as a presidential candidate for refusing to take a test intended to determine his fluency in Navajo. Fluency is a requirement for the presidency.

A motion to dismiss Deschene's appeal was filed on Tuesday by the attorneys representing former presidential candidates Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne.

Deschene's appeal stated that a copy of the certified judgment was attached and that the Office of Hearings and Appeals transmitted a certified copy to the Supreme Court on or immediately after its Oct. 9 disqualification decision.

According to the dismissal order, Deschene's appeal did not include that documentation and attempts were made to notify Deschene's attorney of the omission. And the order said that the certified copy of the Office of Hearings and Appeals final judgment was not filed by Deschene until 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

"The appellant has the responsibility for compliance with the appellate rules on originating an appeal," the dismissal order stated.

In the ruling, the justices said that the Navajo Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure require an appeal to include "a certified copy of the final judgment, order, or administrative decision being appealed, signed by the judge or hearing officer and dated."

The justices also wrote that the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure do not allow an appeal to be considered as filed "until the filing fee has been paid and a copy of the final judgment has been attached."

Attorney David Jordan, who is representing Tsosie, said the disqualification is "absolutely appropriate" and it is unfortunate that the dismissal was based on a "mistake" made by Deschene's lawyer.

Jordan said Deschene had the chance to comply with tribal law but he "simply" refused to take the Navajo language fluency test during the Oct. 9 hearing.

"He should have a greater sense of complying with the Navajo tribunals," Jordan said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Deschene said he was not "surprised" by the ruling and reiterated that he will continue his fight to stay on the ballot.

"I respect the Supreme Court, but given the recent legal proceedings, I question whether it was fair and impartial. I want to be Navajo Nation president. I am qualified to be Navajo Nation president," Deschene said.

He said it was "ironic" and "concerning" that the Supreme Court "attempted to conclude this process on a procedural technicality" despite overlooking a number of procedural errors and deficiencies made by the opposition from the beginning of the case.

Deschene added that the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors is continuing to "protect" Navajo Fundamental Law by allowing the people to choose their leaders.

"I am grateful," he said. "They have continued to do the right thing. They have not conceded to this flawed, biased legal process. And neither will I."

Judicial Branch spokeswoman Karen Francis said the high court had not issued a decision on the petition for a writ of mandamus filed last week by Tsosie and Whitethorne.

That petition would require the election board and the Navajo Election Administration to comply with the Office of Hearings and Appeals order to remove Deschene from the ballot and replace his name with Russell Begaye, who finished third in the primary election.

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

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