TAHLEQUAH -- The Cherokee Nation's judicial branch has moved from its downtown location inside the CN Capitol Building to space in the recently built second story of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
The Capitol Building was built after the Civil War, completed in 1869 and occupies the center of Tahlequah's town square. In 1991, the Tribal Council re-established the District Court to utilize the Capitol Building to hear civil, juvenile and adoption cases.
After 27 years and several attempts at a new facility, the CN court system has moved to a new and more modern location.
"We've been in the Capitol Building since 1991, whenever the council passed legislation allowing us to continue doing our District Court. We started out there and we pretty much outgrew this building as our caseload started growing," Court Administrator Lisa Fields said.
The new location encompasses 15,385 square feet of more space and "state-of-the-art" equipment.
"It's beautiful. It's state of the art and it's a really nice courtroom. It's going to be large enough to hold our court customers or people that come to court," Fields said.
The new location contains large and small courtrooms, offices for attorneys to meet with clients, new offices for all court staff members, District and Supreme Court filings counters and a separate location from the general public to allow CN marshals to bring in prisoners to have their cases heard. District Court judges and Supreme Court justices will also have their own chambers, which was not available at the Capitol Building.
Fields said everyone in the court system, including justices and other judiciary officials, were in agreement with the move.
"To say the least that we, meaning the justices and the district judges, are very excited and looking forward to the new courtroom. The facilities are very nice. I think it's just a great move for the court system," Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Garret said.
Fields said the court system had a target date of Feb. 26 to begin filings at the new location with the first court docket scheduled for March 2.
The last docket in the previous location was Feb. 16.
Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said they plan to restore and refurbish the Capitol Building for future use as a museum for the public.
"We're moving into the modern era I guess you could say. We've been in this old building, which we absolutely love, but we want to see it go back to its original state and for the public to enjoy it," Fields said.