Crittenden asks Supreme Court to rule him eligible for re-election

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
05/02/2018 03:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden
TAHLEQUAH – Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden on April 24 filed a brief in the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court asking he be ruled eligible for re-election in 2019.

The amicus curiae filing states he’s not a party to any lawsuit but has a “strong interest in the subject matter.” It follows District Judge Luke Barteaux’s April 6 ruling declaring Principal Chief Bill John Baker eligible for re-election but not Crittenden.

Attorney General Todd Hembree has appealed the Crittenden decision to the Supreme Court.
Crittenden declined to comment on the pending litigation, but his filing states Barteaux’s ruling “directly affects the fundamental rights and protections” he enjoys under the CN Constitution.

Barteaux wrote Crittenden had “assumed the office of Principal Chief pursuant to Article VII, Section 4, in faithful discharge of his duties as Deputy Principal Chief” while Principal Chief Bill John Baker had to await the results of an appeal of the 2011 principal chief’s race before taking office.

“In case of the absence of the Principal Chief from office due to death, resignation, removal or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the same shall devolve upon the Deputy Principal Chief for the remaining portion of the four (4) year term to which the Principal Chief had been elected,” the Constitution states.

Crittenden was sworn in on Aug. 14, 2011, but Baker had to wait until Oct. 19, 2011. As such, Barteaux ruled Crittenden had stepped into Baker’s role as dictated by the deputy chief’s listed duties in the Constitution and “completed his first four (4) year term of office four (4) years later without any loss of time from his term, and is now in his second consecutive four (4) year term.”

Crittenden argues Article VII, Section 4 wasn’t in effect when he was sworn in because the vacant principal chief position did not become open due to death, resignation, removal or inability to discharge the office’s powers. Rather, Crittenden states “there was no principal chief” and thus, he could not be “filling in” for the principal chief as part of the deputy chief duties. Instead, Crittenden states it’s a “partial” term.

“Crittenden did not serve as deputy chief during the first nine weeks of his term as deputy chief, rather he served as Principal Chief. The role of deputy chief was filled by former Speaker of the Tribal Council, Meredith Frailey for the same nine weeks,” states the filing.

Additionally, he states when he was sworn into office he was recited the principal chief oath and not that of acting principal chief.

Crittenden states the Supreme Court ratified his appointment and paid him the principal chief salary of $124,812 rather than the $63,538 deputy chief salary. This, he states, is in contrast to periods in Baker’s term when Baker was out of the country and Crittenden was the acting principal chief without a modified salary or an additional oath.

Crittenden states that if he had been administered the oath of deputy chief, and not the principal chief oath in 2011 “he would have begun serving his first four-year term as deputy chief immediately” and “assumed the role of acting principal chief during the nine-week time frame.”

The April 24 filing also supports Hembree’s 2016 opinion that states Baker and Crittenden are eligible for re-election in 2019 because neither had served a full four-year term in 2011.

Click here toread the court document.

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