Navajo Nation names new chief prosecutor

Noel Lyn Smith
From left, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Raymond Smith Jr. and Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch attended a ceremony for Gertrude Lee, third from left, as she takes the oath of office from Window Rock District Court Judge Geraldine Benally on Monday in the Navajo Nation Attorney General’s conference room in Window Rock, Ariz.

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation has a new chief prosecutor.

Gertrude Lee, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Kirtland, was sworn in on Monday by Window Rock District Court Judge Geraldine Benally in Window Rock, Ariz., according to a press release from the tribe's Department of Justice.

Lee graduated from Kirtland Central High School in 2002 and graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2009.

She is a licensed member of the New Mexico Bar Association and a member of the Navajo Nation Bar Association, according to both associations.

"I am excited to join the Office of the Prosecutor and I look forward to leading a staff of individuals who are dedicated to law enforcement and public safety on the Navajo Nation. My immediate priority in the position will be to bring the office up to full staff," Lee said in the release.

Lee worked for six and half years with the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Division 2, in Gallup, where she started as an associate trial attorney and worked her way up to deputy district attorney.

The chief prosecutor is appointed by the tribe's attorney general and serves at the pleasure of the attorney general, according to tribal law.

Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch described Lee as a "team player" and a "hard worker" in the release.

"I am confident she will make a difference in ensuring that our communities are safe and that our limited prosecutorial resources are leveraged to the maximum extent," Branch said in the release.

In an email today, Branch stated that as chief prosecutor, Lee will serve as the chief law enforcement officer for the tribe.

"She will represent the interest of the Navajo Nation in prosecuting individuals charged with violating the laws of the Navajo Nation Code," the attorney general wrote.

That includes overseeing 35 staff members and nine district offices located throughout the Navajo Nation, Branch wrote.

Lee succeeds Bernadine Martin.

During the 16 months the position had been vacant, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Jaime High served as acting chief prosecutor and she will return to her post as deputy chief prosecutor, according to the tribe's Justice Department.

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