Hoskin appoints campaign donor with no judicial experience to Supreme Court
With a new administration in charge of the Cherokee Nation comes new appointments to fill certain roles in our tribal government. Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Lynn Burris earlier this year, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. now has the opportunity to choose his first nominee to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. Who did he choose? A campaign donor with no experience as a judge or a tribal attorney.
Shawna Baker was announced this month as Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.'s first Supreme Court appointee since taking office last August. If her name sounds familiar to you, it's because she was previously appointed by Principal Chief Bill John Baker to the Supreme Court in 2018, an appointment that failed to be confirmed by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council.
A Cherokee Phoenix story from that time cites councilors' concerns with Baker's nomination, specifically her complete lack of experience litigating Indian law and unfamiliarity with Cherokee culture and government. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vasquez was quoted as defending Baker's nomination by saying that she "had some knowledge of Indian law," but an extensive search of Baker's history as an attorney came up with nothing related to Indian law. In fact, she has no experience as a judge at all. Her confirmation failed by a 9-8 vote.
Shawna Baker was then appointed by Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr in October of 2019 to serve as a board member of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. During her confirmation committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire mentioned the fact that Baker donated thousands of dollars to Hoskin's campaign and that she spoke with Hoskin about future employment prospects while he was a candidate for principal chief, which she confirmed. Watch the video here:
Baker was ultimately confirmed to the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, but now, just a year later, she is being appointed by Chief Hoskin to serve as a justice on the highest court in the Cherokee Nation — a position made significantly more pivotal in the fallout of the recent McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling.
Questions remain: Is it possible for somebody to become an expert on our Cherokee government and law in less than a year? Is it prudent for the Chief of the largest Indian tribe in the United States to appoint an attorney with no judicial experience to the highest court? Are there better options for this position who have the experience necessary for the job? These are all important questions that will hopefully be answered in Thursday's tribal council meeting.
We at the Cherokee Free Press encourage you to contact your tribal councilor and express your viewpoint on this topic, our government works better when the people are engaged.