Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle has appointed Meredith Drent as Acting Chief Justice of the Osage Nation Supreme Court.
Drent, Osage, will replace former Chief Justice Charles Lohah, who is stepping down due to health reasons. Lohah, 78, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of last year. He said the cancer is terminal.
“I just thought I would relax for awhile, enjoy what time I have left,” he said.
On Drent’s appointment, Lohah said, “I think Meredith is a really good appointment … I told her once that I thought she should be Chief Justice. She’s very sharp.”
Lohah, a University of Tulsa law school graduate who also served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, has worked as an attorney and judge for county and tribal government entities. He has served on several boards and commissions including the Native American Rights Fund and worked as a college law professor.
Retired since 1997, Lohah was appointed to the Osage Nation Supreme Court in 2006 with fellow Justices Jeanine Logan and Drent by former Principal Chief Jim Gray. All three Justices were retained in the 2010 election.
“I wish to express my sincere appreciation to former Chief Justice Lohah for his many years of dedication in promoting the rights of the Osage people,” Red Eagle said in a prepared statement. “His knowledge, wit and determination will certainly be missed.”
Drent’s appointment will be submitted for confirmation in the regular fall session of the Osage Nation Congress. She will serve as Acting Chief Justice until that time.
“The Osage Nation Supreme Court is a critical exercise of the sovereign powers of the Osage Nation Government,” Red Eagle said in a prepared statement. “Justice Drent will bring a new era to the tribal court. She is dedicated to an effort in modernizing the court and ensuring effective services are provided by the Osage Nation Courts to the people.”
Born in Pawhuska, Drent is a graduate of the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and an alumna of its nationally-recognized Indian Legal Program. After several years of practice with various California-based law firms specializing exclusively in Indian Law, Drent currently serves as the Managing Attorney of Government Affairs with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Highland, Calif.
The Osage Nation Supreme Court has considered only one case since it was established in 2006. The case concerned the constitutionality of the 2008 Independent Press Act in which then-Principal Chief Jim Gray sued the First Osage Nation Congress, citing injury from the law before the law was adopted. The case was brought before the Osage High Court in August of 2009.
The Supreme Court ruled against Gray, reversed the lower court’s opinion and said that Gray or any subsequent chief does not have the right to sue the Osage Nation Congress over the constitutionality of a law without successfully showing an injured party.
Justice Drent wrote and delivered the opinion in December of 2009.