Navajo Chief Hearing Officer Fired

Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 7:24am

The Navajo Nation's chief hearing officer has been fired for not having a state bar license just weeks after he disqualified a presidential candidate for not speaking Navajo fluently.

Richie Nez's appointment to the Office of Hearings and Appeals required him to get a license from Arizona, New Mexico or Utah within a year. He was given the option to resign or be terminated after it was discovered he had not met the requirement, according to a tribal spokesman.

The issue was raised in the second presidential election case that Nez presided over this year challenging the qualifications of candidates. The Supreme Court rejected arguments that Nez was unqualified to rule in one case.

The most high-profile case of Nez's tenure was that of Chris Deschene, a Navajo presidential hopeful who was disqualified earlier this year for not speaking fluent Navajo. Russell Begaye took Deschene's place and was the subject of the latest Supreme Court opinion that addressed Nez's qualifications.

A new date still has not been set for the presidential contest. Begaye faces former tribal President Joe Shirley Jr. for the top elected post.

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