Justice Shawna Baker’s appointment to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court did not come without its bumps along the way. In this episode of Bouncing Back, Justice Baker shares with Rebecca Glatzer the concerns that were initially raised by the tribe that prevented her from initially ascending to the Tribe’s highest court. She also talks about what it’s like a member of the 2SLGBT+ community and only the third woman ever confirmed to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.
Shawna S. Baker is a Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice, Distinguished Alumna in Residence at the University of Tulsa College of Law, managing attorney of Family Legacy and Wealth Counsel, PLLC, and a Trustee of Oklahomans for Equality.
Justice Baker was nominated to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court by Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., and confirmed by a vote of the Tribal Council on August 27, 2020. She is the first member of the 2SLGBT+ community and only the third woman ever confirmed to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.
Justice Baker’s first written opinion was in re: Effect of Cherokee Nation v. Nash & Vann v. Zinke, CNSC-2017-07, published on February 22, 2021, wherein the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court unanimously held that any “by blood” citizenship references found in the 1999 Cherokee Nation Constitution, Cherokee Nation Tribal Code, and or accompanying rules, regulations, policies or procedures were void ab initio per the 1866 Treaty between the United States and the Cherokee Nation. This groundbreaking decision grants full rights of citizenship to Cherokee Freedman descendants. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, released a press statement on May 12, 2021, announcing the Department of the Interior’s approval of the 1999 Cherokee Nation Constitution in light of Nash. And, on October 22, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia L. Fudge, quoted the opinion and specifically cited the outcome for opening a wide range of services and assistance, under HUD programs, to Cherokee Nation citizens.
Justice Baker began her legal career working for one of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest law firms upon her graduation from the University of Tulsa’s College of Law, With Highest Honor, in 2002. In 2006, Justice Baker was admitted to Columbia Law School where she obtained her master’s in law (LL.M.) in 2007 and was recognized as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a member of Columbia’s Journal of Gender and Law.
Following her graduation from Columbia, Justice Baker accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Law at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, Florida, where she taught estate planning, taxation, evidence, civil procedure and trial practice. In 2010, she returned to Tulsa to serve as a Trustee of a private family foundation. While working full-time, she enrolled at New York University’s School of Law in the Fall of 2013, and after flying roundtrip to and from New York on a weekly basis for four semesters, graduated with a Master of Law (LL.M) in Taxation in May of 2015. In July of 2015, she founded Family Legacy & Wealth Counsel, PLLC where she focuses on estate planning, probate, and business law.
In addition to her three law degrees, Justice Baker holds a Master of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Tulsa, through the joint degree program, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from John Brown University.
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