Legal Drafting and Systemic Change

 

As a National Association for Public Interest Law Equal Justice Fellow, King received specific training in logistics, utilization of media, and community organizing. She put these skills into constant use while serving as a Staff Attorney for the Office of Navajo Government Development. The Office of Navajo Government Development is the administrative arm to the Commission on Navajo Government Development. At the time, the Commission and Office were the only entities in Indian country specifically charged with developing and helping to implement government reform on an ongoing basis.

Working with the Navajo people, the Commission and Office reviewed and evaluated then-existing Navajo Nation government institutions and developed recommendations of government reforms for consideration and adoption by the Nation. The groups’ work included reforms in executive branch policy, a review of the Navajo Nation legislature’s organization and procedure, a review of aspects of the Local Governance Act, and a nationwide convention and referendum on further changes to the Navajo Nation Code.

The technical writing fell squarely on Martha L. King’s shoulders. Besides the afore-mentioned documents, she drafted the Navajo Nation Sales Tax, the Navajo Nation Sales Tax Trust Fund Plan of Operation for Distributing Funds, the Local Governance Trust Fund, amendments to the Local Governance Act, and amendments to the Navajo Nation Code. Additionally, she drafted many of the policies for implementation, including the Public Employment Project Policies and Procedures for Chapter Expenditures and the Housing Discretionary Fund Policies and Procedures.

She traveled to the five agencies, conducting hearings with her Commission, Office and the Navajo people to determine which reforms people desired, and translated those results into legislative format. She conducted radio presentations and trainings, drafted informational materials, and gave oral and written presentations and advice to committees, departments, and local governments. This work culminated in 26 proposed amendments to the Navajo Nation Code which empowered the Navajo people and local governments, encouraged the separation of powers between the three branches of government, and placed some restrictions on expenditures of Navajo Nation funds. Delegates from each of the 110 local governments came together at a Convention and unanimously approved the code amendments, recommending them to the Navajo Nation legislature for code integration.

The work resulted in her being asked to assist the Harvard Project On American Indian Economic Development with its work on constitutional reform in Indian country.  Her contributions helped the Office of Navajo Government Development achieve national recognition as Honoring Nations Honoree in 2002 for a project that came to be known as the Government Reform, Diné Appropriate Government, Local Governance Project.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply