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HomeHealthJudicial Branch extends COVID-19 protocols through March 2022

Judicial Branch extends COVID-19 protocols through March 2022

Citing the continued COVID-19 pandemic, including newer variants, the Osage Nation Judicial Branch is extending its safety protocols for its office operations and court proceedings at the Tribal Courthouse in Pawhuska.

A posted notice states the Judicial Branch offices “will remain closed to the public except by appointment only. All business with Osage Nation Courts and communications with the Clerk’s Office shall be by mail, email, fax or telephone until further notice. Clerks have been directed to take all reasonable steps to address inquiries remotely and shall only schedule appointments when the inquiry cannot be resolved without a personal visit to the Clerk’s Office.”

The court notice also states, “all hearings will be conducted by telephone or videoconference when available.”

In addition, Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith Drent issued a Jan. 7 administrative order stating the court’s COVID-19 precautionary measures will remain in place through March 30. Previous orders were also extended due to the continued pandemic situation.

“Tribal courts across the state have re-implemented measures to protect the public and court personnel in response to COVID-19 delta and omicron variants substantially increased transmissibility rate, hospitalizations, lethality and stress upon health systems,” wrote Drent. “With the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the delta and omicron variants and the comparatively low vaccination rate of the community, the Osage Nation Judicial Branch previously consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center, who recommended continuing the precautionary measures already in place. It is appropriate to continue precautionary measures to protect court personnel and court customers.”

Drent’s order states masks are required to be worn by both court personnel and visitors while in the courthouse building. Disposable ones will also be available, as well as hand sanitizer in the building.

“To minimize exposure to Judicial Branch personnel, physical court appearances by parties shall not be permitted. All parties shall make arrangements to appear by telephone or videoconference, when available. If a party cannot appear … the party should contact the Court Clerk’s office as soon as possible,” wrote Drent.

The order also notes: “The Court Administrator is authorized to close the court offices on an emergency basis upon determination that a health risk exists and to take appropriate measures to secure the safety of the court staff and court patrons.”

The extended courthouse building protocols come as recent increases in COVID-19 cases include the omicron variant. On Dec. 21, 2021, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced the “Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in Oklahoma.”

In its Jan. 31 update, OSDH reported 4,873 new COVID-19 cases, a 3,500-plus decrease from the previous day’s new reported cases at 8,386. The state’s cumulative reported cases stand at 976,914.

For more information on the ON Tribal Courthouse/ Judicial Branch, call (918) 287-5400 or visit its website at:

Original Publish Date: 2022-02-01 00:00:00


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Benny Polacca
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.

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