Osage Supreme Court requests more time to consider nepotism case

The Third Osage Nation Congress adjourned the 2013 Hun-Kah Session on its 24th and final day of session April 22 after fast tracking and voting on several pieces of legislation.

The three-day session extension approved by majority Congressional vote last week will not be used. The remaining legislative bills and resolutions passed by Congress were sent to Principal Chief John Red Eagle’s office for his consideration.

Earlier that day, the Congress heard from the ON Supreme Court regarding its request for a declaratory judgment ruling regarding the appointment of Principal Chief John Red Eagle's brother, Eddy Red Eagle Jr., to the Osage Nation Energy Services LLC Board. Congress tabled consideration of confirming Red Eagle to the board pending a response from the High Court.

In an April 22 written court order, Chief Justice Meredith Drent advised that the court may require more time to consider the issues raised in the courtdocuments filed by attorneys for the Congress and Chief Red Eagle in the first declaratory judgement case requested by an ON government branch.

On April 4, Congress filed a court complaint requesting a declaratory judgment ruling asking the Supreme Court if Red Eagle’s appointment of his brother is unconstitutional. Chief Red Eagle filed a response brief to the complaint on April 19, prompting the court to advise the two government branches that more information and more time may be required to review the issues raised in the court documents.

The Congress hoped for a decision on the case before the Hun-Kah Session’s end with the three-day maximum extension ending on April 25. The Congress did not have issue with Eddy Red Eagle’s professional experience but some members questioned whether the confirmation would be legal considering the Nation has ethical provisions written in the Constitution and a tribal ethics law with a section on nepotism.

In his written response, Chief Red Eagle argues the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case arguing the “Congress is effectively requesting that the Court interpret a statute, not a constitutional provision required by the Declaratory Judgment Act.”

Kirke Kickingbird, attorney for Chief Red Eagle, filed the complaint response stating the case is “not yet ripe enough for adjudication because there is no dispute.” Kickingbird also argued the declaratory judgment act does not authorize the Supreme Court to resolve disputes between the government branches over the interpretation of the Nation’s statutory laws and motioned for the court to dismiss the case.  

In her court order, Drent acknowledged receipt of Chief Red Eagle’s response to the complaint and a request from the Congress to respond. Drent granted the Congressional motion for additional response.

According to Drent: “The Motion states that the Principal Chief’s Answer Brief, which was filed on April 19, raises new and factual issues that warrant an additional response. The Principal Chief objected to the Motion according to the Speaker (Raymond Red Corn). The Court has determined that its analysis would benefit from further briefing from the Speaker.”

In response to Drent’s order, Congressional attorney Loyed “Trey” Gill filed an April 23 reply in support of the initial complaint. According to the document, Gill said there are two questions present to be answered by the Supreme Court and wrote:

1)   Does the Principal Chief’s appointment of his brother, Eddy Red Eagle Jr. to the ONES LLC Board violate Article X, Section 3, which states ‘All tribal officials and employees of the Osage Nation shall avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the performance of their duties’; and

2)   Does the Principal Chief’s appointment of his brother, Eddy Red Eagle, to a board position on the ONES LLC Board, over which the Principal Chief has direct supervision, violate the Osage Nation Ethics Law, and therefore violate Article X, Section 2 of the Osage Constitution by failing to comply with the law in performing his duty to appoint?

With the additional legal issues on the table, Congress voted by majority to adjourn the session without considering Eddy Red Eagle’s appointment.

According to the Constitution, appointments made by the Principal Chief must be subject to Congressional confirmation, but “failure of the Osage Nation Congress to confirm the appointment, prior to the end of session, shall constitute rejection.” The Constitution also states a person not confirmed by the Congress “shall not be appointed to the same office during any recess of the legislature.”

Also before adjourning, the Congress voted by majority to reelect Raymond Red Corn as Congressional Speaker for a second consecutive year. Red Corn and Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn were the Speaker nominees considered.

Congress also elected John Free as Second Speaker by majority vote. Free, a first-time Second Speaker, and Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead were the nominees considered.

More Osage News updates on the Hun-Kah Session will follow. 


Osage Nation Judicial Branch/ Tribal Court
1333 Grandview
United States