Legal Ethics

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Disbars Lawyer for His Contrary Legal Advice

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The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has permanently disbarred a lawyer for advising Najavo nation lawmakers to ignore its rulings.

The court ordered lawyer Frank Seanez to be removed from the Navajo Bar Association, which prohibits him from practicing law on the reservation, the Associated Press and the Navajo Times report. Seanez is the top lawyer for the tribe’s legislative branch.

The court initiated disciplinary proceedings on its own motion, according its opinion (PDF).

The court cited two instances in which Seanez told lawmakers that the Navajo Nation’s supreme court rulings should not be followed. He told lawmakers they had the power to change a law regarding the election of judges, when the power rested with the people, the court said. He also improperly advised lawmakers that the Navajo high court exceeded its jurisdiction when it created a government reform commission.

“A fundamental duty of legal advisors who are Navajo Nation Bar members and also government lawyers is to inform their clients what the law is, not merely re-state the law as what they wish it should be,” the court said. “Here, the laws in question are holdings of this supreme court.”

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