Legal

Former Osage tribal judge assisted ON Supreme Court on declaratory judgment case

Osage Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith D. Drent and ON Trial Court Chief Judge Marvin Stepson appointed an Arkansas-based attorney to sit on the High Court with Drent and Associate Justice Jeanine Logan when they considered the inaugural declaratory judgment case filed in April.

Drent issued a written administrative order April 22 naming Drew Pierce (Osage) a temporary associate judge, “to ensure the Court has the appropriate resources needed to administer justice.” She also wrote: “The authority delegated herein shall continue until September 30, 2013 or until the assignment is no longer needed, whichever is sooner.”

Pierce previously served as a district judge under the 1994 Osage National Council. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and now works as an attorney in private practice in Cotter, Ark.

The Third ON Congress confirmed Drent as Chief Justice in September 2012 to fill the post after the late Chief Justice Charles Lohah retired, leaving a vacancy on the three-judge High Court. Jeanine Logan is the third Associate Justice who also considered the case.

Pierce joined the Supreme Court to consider the first-ever declaratory judgment case regarding the board appointment of Eddy Red Eagle Jr. to serve on the Osage Nation Energy Services LLC board. Red Eagle is the older brother of Principal Chief John Red Eagle and several Third ON Congress members expressed concern the familial relationship is a conflict of interest. As a result, the Congress filed an April 4 court complaint and asked the Supreme Court to opine on the issue.

In a May 10 written opinion, the High Court said it lacked jurisdiction to determine whether Chief Red Eagle violated the Nation’s ethics law when he appointed his brother to the ONES LLC board. The court also noted the ON Attorney General is both the recipient of alleged ethical violations for non-Congressional officials and the initiator of any judicial action to evaluate an alleged violation.

According to his bio, Pierce previously served as the Osage Nation as a District Court Judge under the 1994 Osage Constitution, which was invalidated in 1997 by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Fletcher v. United States. Pierce, also an Army veteran, worked in the farming and construction industries for 20 years before starting law school.

In a written statement, Pierce said he works in private practice focusing primarily on civil law including contracts, probate and estate planning. He is licensed to practice law in Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as the United States District Courts for the Eastern District of Oklahoma and Western District of Arkansas. Pierce also describes himself as an “avid student of Osage history with a special interest in our legal history.”

Pierce also wrote: “I grew up in Colorado, but spent summers and holidays on my mother's family ranch near Grainola, part of which was my Grandfather, Harrison Drew Baylis's, original allotment. During those years the ranch was operated by my uncle, Glenn Baylis, and my mother's first cousin, Melvin Atkin. My sister, Julie White and I still own a part of our grandfather's allotment near Avant, where Julie now lives. I served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1969 and served in Vietnam from April 1967 to April 1968. It is an honor and privilege to have been chosen to serve as acting Supreme Court Justice.”

According to the Osage Constitution the Principal Chief appoints the Supreme Court Chief Justice and associate justices and those appointees are subject to Congressional confirmation for a four-year term. Once those terms expire, each judge’s name will appear on the election ballot for retention by a vote of qualified Osage electors for a four-year term thereafter.

Also noted in the Constitution, the Supreme Court Chief Justice and Chief Trial Court Judge may jointly appoint subordinate judges “as are necessary and proper to carry into effect matters in which the Judicial Department is empowered to act now or in the future.”