The Osage Nation Supreme Court has denied Principal Chief John Red Eagle’s challenge of the rules process being used by the tribal Congress to consider removing him from office — clearing the way for a trial of the Osage executive leader, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.
In an opinion released late Thursday, the tribal court found no violations of the Chief’s rights under the Osage Constitution from any steps taken thus far in the process.
The court’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Red Eagle in October. The suit sought to void congressional actions already taken against the Chief on the grounds that they were unconstitutional and based on both flawed rules and an unfair process.
Red Eagle’s removal trial was unanimously approved in November by the Osage Congress. The 12-0 vote followed recommendations from a select congressional committee which investigated the tribal leader on 15 claims of official wrongdoing. Committee members found six of the allegations represented violations for which the Chief should be removed from office.
It was the opinion of the court that Red Eagle had been afforded due process by the congressional investigators and during the actions that followed.
"We find that the Principal Chief at all times received proper notice of the allegations against him, that he had notice of the applicable rules, and that he has received the evidence against him," the Supreme Court said in its ruling. "Furthermore, he was given reasonable time to prepare for the removal trial.
"The removal trial is the Principal Chief’s opportunity to address the charges against him," the Court stated.
The opinion also said: "The removal trial itself is where the parties must establish whether the Constitution supports their respective positions…due process requirements have been satisfied up to this point in the process."
Red Eagle responded to the ruling in a statement released Friday on the Osage Nation website.
"We thought it likely that the court would allow the trial to go forward, but had high hopes that they would determine that ‘meaningful due process’ during the investigatory phase would include an opportunity for the Chief to defend himself or to at least be fully represented in a manner that allowed the ‘evidence’ to be questioned or impeached," according to the statement.
"This would allow the Congress better information upon which to base any decision," the release said. "Congress rules simply allow the Chief’s attorneys to attend as observers and that does not allow adequate representation or defense."
The Red Eagle statement went on to say: "The Court simply denied my petition without making any substantive rulings that could serve as guidance going forward. The Justices implied that the petition was too early to determine whether due process occurred, and that the trial needed to happen before I could raise other questions about due process.
"Because the inquiry process did not provide me an opportunity to defend myself, I am preparing my defense in expectation of being exonerated from these allegations," the release concluded.