Supreme Court affirms ousting of Anglen as candidate
TAHLEQUAH — A Cherokee Nation Supreme Court opinion issued March 14 affirmed the Election Commission’s earlier decision to prevent longtime Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen from running in the general election based on term limits.
Anglen’s only Dist. 13 election opponent, Joe Deere, filed the original eligibility challenge. Erased from this year’s ballot by the EC in February, Anglen appealed to the Supreme Court.
“The Election Commission is wrong,” attorney and former Principal Chief Chad Smith told Supreme Court justices on Anglen’s behalf during a March 11 hearing.
Anglen’s initial run on the council began in 2002, when he was appointed to fill a Dist. 8 vacancy. He was elected to the seat in 2003, serving a full term.
In 2007, when term limits took effect under the tribe’s current Constitution, Anglen was elected again. However, the typical four-year term was extended to six years to stagger terms of half the council.
After losing his seat because of redistricting in 2013, Anglen sat out two years, then ran for and secured the Dist. 13 seat in 2015.
Deere’s attorney, Carly Griffith Hotvedt, said Anglen should “be required to sit out four years” before he’s eligible to run again.
CN law restricts councilors to two consecutive four-year terms. The Constitution states that, “All Council members having served two consecutive terms must sit out one term before seeking any seat on the Council.”
“We find nothing in the law that requires him to sit out four years,” Smith argued. “We all know consecutive is not a vague term. It requires uninterrupted service. His next consecutive term would have been in 2013, but he didn’t run. He waited until 2015 to run.”
The Supreme Court’s opinion stated that staggered terms and redistricting created “a unique fact scenario that would be difficult to repeat” in Anglen’s case.
“Anglen has been elected to the Tribal Council in every single election held in his district since 2003, although the shape and number of that district have changed, at times drastically, during the previous 15 years,” the opinion states.
The author of CN term limits language “clarified that she intended the term limit to apply to the individual council member, so that regardless of where he or she moved it would never be possible to serve more than two consecutive terms,” according to the justices.
“In this case, it was not the tribal member that moved, but the district that moved around him while he stayed in the same location,” they wrote. “However, the language adopted by the convention limiting consecutive terms in office demands the same result.”
The definition of the word term “in these unique circumstances,” the order states, is “a true question of constitutional interpretation.”
“It is clear that the framers of the Constitution intended to require that one term of office be allowed to pass before an individual could return for a third term,” the order states. “To give meaning and effect to the requirements of the Constitution, Anglen cannot be elected to a third straight term on the Tribal Council without sitting out for one full, four-year term.”
On Deere’s behalf, Hotvedt said they were pleased with the Supreme Court’s order.
“We felt like the Election Commission got it right in the first fight,” she said. “As soon as we get certified from the Election Commission, that race will be decided.”
Anglen was unavailable for comment as of publication.