ON Supreme Court to rule by year-end on Chief’s challenge to removal process

The Osage Nation Supreme Court announced it will issue a declaratory judgment ruling before 2014 in the lawsuit brought by Principal Chief John Red Eagle against the Osage Congress challenging the constitutionality of the removal process.

In a Nov. 19 written order, the High Court announced a timeline for both government branches to file legal briefs in the case for its consideration.

This is the second case filed this year in which an ON government branch is requesting a declaratory judgment from the Supreme Court over the interpretation of language in the Osage Constitution.

“The Court has determined the interests of justice require the speedy resolution of the above-named matter,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith Drent wrote in the order. She issued deadlines to the Congress and Chief Red Eagle to issue four legal briefs of their arguments and responses between Nov. 27 and Dec. 20 for the case.

“At the conclusion of the briefing, the Court will issue its decision on or before December 31, 2013,” according to the order. “The Court has further determined that the facts and legal arguments would be adequately presented in the parties' briefs and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument," according to the order.

Earlier this month, the Chief filed suit against the Congress, its Speaker Raymond Red Corn and Select Committee of Inquiry chairwoman Alice Buffalohead, requesting a declaratory judgment ruling from the Supreme Court "to determine the constitutionality of the removal process conducted by Osage Nation Congress beginning July 8, 2013 to present under Removal Rules promulgated by Congress."

News of the Supreme Court’s decision to consider the case comes less than a week after the court denied a request by Chief Red Eagle for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Congress from meeting for its Nov. 14-15 special session. As a result, the Congress proceeded with the special session and its removal rules that included voting for the removal trial after Congressman Archie Mason made the motion and raised six allegations that will be considered in the trial.

Those six allegations of wrongdoing are believed to warrant cause for a removal trial and are recommended to be placed on the removal trial motion, according to the Congressional Select Committee of Inquiry, which investigated a total of 15 allegations of wrongdoing against the Chief during a two-month span. The investigation committee interviewed 40 witnesses and gathered evidence during its work before making its recommendations in an Oct. 28 

Chief comments on removal trial vote

On Nov. 19, Chief Red Eagle issued a statement regarding the vote for his removal trial and his suit against the Congress requesting the declaratory judgment from the Supreme Court.

In a written statement, the Chief said: “While the Osage Nation has existed since time immemorial, our present form of government is relatively young. Our Constitution reflects the fundamental values Osage People hold sacred: Justice, Fairness, Compassion, Respect for and Protection of Child, Elder, All Fellow Beings, and Self. As Ki-He-Kah, the Principal Chief, those values have guided my actions in striving for proper governance. My concern at this point, is that Congress, even though equally well-intentioned, has drafted flawed removal rules that allow it to act not only asthe police, prosecutor, and grand jury of what is ‘ethical’ conduct, but that also allow it to sit as the trial jury in judging my conduct. All other well-principled democracies completelyseparate the police, prosecutor, grand jury, and trial jury functions in order to promote justice and fairness. We all want ethics in government, but the current means for achieving that goal is ripe for abuse. The rules created and implemented by the Congress provide little due process and no appellate review of the verdict for errors or abuse of discretion. I refute the unwarranted allegations and deserve a process that adheres to those fundamental principles of fairness and justice. That is why, in a Petition for Declaratory Judgment filed Nov. 7, I have asked our Supreme Court to consider these important issues.”

The Supreme Court denied the Chief’s restraining order request on Nov. 13, less than 24 hours before the special session, noting that Congress had yet to take action on whether to hold a removal trial. “Respondent’s actions do not prohibit the Principal Chief from performing the duties of his office unless and until a removal trial is conducted,” the Supreme Court said in its decision.

“If a removal trial is ordered, the Petitioner must be given at least 20 calendar days to prepare for a trial in which he is afforded the opportunity to present documentary evidence, present witnesses and cross-examine witnesses pursuant to his Constitutional right to due process at a removal trial under Article XII,” Red Corn and Buffalohead argued in their response to the lawsuit.

A date for the removal trial has yet to be announced.

Timeline for briefs:

-       Red Eagle’s Brief in Support of his position is due on or before Nov. 27.
-       ON Congress’s Brief in Support of its position is due on or before Dec. 6.
-       Red Eagle’s Reply Brief is due on or before Dec. 13.
-       ON Congress’s Surreply Brief is due on or before Dec. 20.