Lawsuit filed to let CN employees run for office without resigning
TAHLEQUAH – There was not yet a hearing date as of Jan. 11, but a lawsuit has been filed in the Cherokee Nation’s District Court challenging the ban against tribal employees from running for CN public office without resigning.
The filing by Hammons, Hamby and Price PLLC on behalf of plaintiff Rebekah Scott, claims the prohibition violates the CN Constitution.
In a release, the firm states the prohibition against CN employees running for tribal office without resigning allows them to stand for non-tribal offices such as school boards and the Oklahoma Legislature. It said the ban is “only in an obscure and arcane portion of the Cherokee statutes” and “is not found in the provisions of the Cherokee Nation Constitution approved by the Cherokee people.” The release further states that Scott would run for office but for the prohibition.
The lawsuit “Rebekah Scott v. Cherokee Nation Election Commission” asks that the ban be declared unconstitutional and an injunction be issued permanently prohibiting the CN from enforcing it. The firm’s release said a hearing date would be set once paperwork is served upon the CN attorney general and the CN Election Commission.
“I’ve spent most of my adult career as an employee of the Cherokee Nation,” said Jeremy K. Hamby, who was a CN assistant attorney general from 2016-20. “I know firsthand the frustration many Cherokee Nation employees feel when they are not allowed to exercise their constitutional right to seek elective office while remaining employed. I am proud to fight this fight for all Cherokee Nation employees.”
Plaintiffs claim the CN Constitution only outlines requirements of citizenship, age and domicile to run for the offices of principal chief, deputy chief or tribal councilor.
One allegation reads: “The Tribal Council has adopted the Act which imposed an obligation that no candidate seeking elective office may be, at the time of filing for office, an employee of the Cherokee Nation.” The filing claims that the Council can pass such laws as long as they don’t run counter to the CN Constitution.
Another allegation states the Council’s action “unconstitutionally force the Petitioner to choose between her inalienable right to seek elective office and her inalienable right to continued employment with the Cherokee Nation.”
The filing also alleges the “Act exceeds the Tribal Council’s legislative powers by unconstitutionally imposing requirements for elective office which are more stringent than the requirements imposed by the Cherokee Nation Constitution under both the Legislative Qualifications Clause and the Executive Qualification’s Clause.”
It adds because the act “exceeds the limitations placed upon the Tribal Council’s legislative powers, the Petitioner seeks a declaration that the relevant provisions of the Act are unconstitutional, void and of no effect and that a permanent injunction issue to ensure the same are not enforced.”
Scott is employed by CN Health Services. The petition was filed on Jan. 5.
Election Commission officials confirmed on Jan. 11 that they had received notice of the lawsuit, but would not comment on an open case.