Government , Legal

Edwards files new case in ON Trial Court; Judge to hear oral arguments Wednesday

Photo caption: The Osage Nation Trial Court is located in Pawhuska on the Nation's campus. Osage News File Photo

Osage Nation Trial Court Judge William Oldfield will hear oral arguments Wednesday from attorneys representing Congresswoman Shannon Edwards and five members of Congress who made up the former Congressional Select Committee of Inquiry that recommended her removal from office.

Edwards filed suit in the lower court after her petition to the Osage Nation Supreme Court was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on May 20. Nearly a month later, her new petition was filed on June 10 and it is against Congress members Alice Goodfox, Archie Mason, Second Speaker Paula Stabler, Speaker Joe Tillman and RJ Walker. The five members made up the select committee of inquiry, which was charged with investigating the claims made against Edwards. The committee disbanded after it issued its report and recommended her removal.

The 6th ON Congress voted on June 2 to proceed with the removal trial of Edwards. At issue is whether she violated the Osage Constitution and her oath of office when she accepted the appointment of Associate Appellate Justice for the Yavapai-Apache Nation, based in Arizona, and took an oath of office.

Edwards asked the court for an emergency ex parte temporary restraining order against the defendants from proceeding with the trial. The trial is scheduled to begin on June 23.  

According to her 23-page petition, she alleges the Congressional rules that formed the select committee of inquiry were in violation of a binding Supreme Court precedent set in the 2013 ruling of Red Eagle vs. Osage Nation Congress and Select Committee of Inquiry. She alleges the Congress never amended its Congressional rules to conform with the 2013 ruling and thereby the pre-removal process used against her violated “the Nation’s Ethics laws and dictates of the Osage Nation Supreme Court.”

Representing Edwards is G. Calvin Sharpe of Oklahoma City-based Phillips Murrah P.C., and representing the five members of Congress is William Grimm of Tulsa-based Barrow & Grimm P.C.

According to her petition, she claims that she “has suffered and will continue to suffer immediate and irreparable harm, including violation of her due process rights ...” She claims she accepted the appointment with the Yavapai-Apache for a period of about six months, she performed no substantive work and received no payment. She claims Congresswomen Angela Pratt, Brandy Lemon, Stabler and others “began a vendetta against” her, which culminated in the allegations made. 

She claims that members of the committee of inquiry persuaded the Judicial Branch “to undertake activities in opposition to their own order, and in contravention of Edwards’ constitutional rights.” She claims some members of the committee were under investigation for ethics violations and some were closely related to witnesses.

On June 12, Judge Oldfield denied her request for a restraining order, pending oral arguments from both parties.

“Ms. Edwards does not allege what legal remedies are available to redress her alleged injuries, if any. More importantly, Plaintiff [Edwards] would have this Court enter a temporary restraining order against other members of Congress, who work right down the street, with no notice or opportunity to be heard,” he said.

“... this Court finds there is sufficient time to serve notice on these Defendants and hear oral argument. Issuing the requested ex-parte relief under these circumstances would run afoul of the same due process protections that Ms. Edwards argues today.”

He said if the defendants request an extension beyond June 17 it “shall be accompanied by an announcement that the Congressional removal trial has been postponed and will not occur prior to a final order in this Court.”

The Congress has not released details on whether the removal trial will be in person at the Capitol Building or conducted electronically.

The ON Trial Court is currently closed to the public until July 6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Administrative Order 2020-04, hearings will be conducted through telephonic means.

Judge Oldfield ordered oral arguments set for Wednesday, June 17 at 1:30 p.m.