September 27, 2018
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council confirmed Lee Paden as a justice of the tribe’s Supreme Court during a special meeting Thursday.
Paden, of Tulsa, was nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and is the fifth judge to be seated on the Supreme Court bench during Baker’s time as Principal Chief. He will fulfill the term of the late Angela Jones, which ends Dec. 31, 2022.
“Undoubtedly, Lee Paden will be an adamant champion of our tribal sovereignty and a fair defender of the Cherokee Nation constitution. The tribe’s Supreme Court will be stronger because of his leadership, education and experience,” Baker said. “A prominent Cherokee Nation citizen, he has served both U.S. senators and Oklahoma governors during his storied career in public service and is extremely versed in federal, state and tribal law.”
Paden graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee in 1964. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1967.
Paden served as a staffer for Sen. Henry Bellmon from 1969-78 and helped facilitate federal legislation that allowed Oklahoma’s tribal citizens, including Cherokee Nation, to elect their own leaders. The law ended the decades-long practice of the federal government selecting chiefs for each tribe.
Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez sponsored the resolution confirming Paden’s nomination and said Paden’s knowledge and experience will be an asset to the tribe’s judicial branch.
“Mr. Paden possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience that will prove to be invaluable to the Cherokee Nation during his time as a justice of the Supreme Court,” Vazquez said. “He is a champion of all Indian Country and was vital to ushering in the modern era of our tribe through legislation he helped write for Sen. Bellmon that allowed tribes in Oklahoma to elect their own leaders. His positive impact on the Cherokee Nation is undeniable and will only grow during his time serving on the bench of our tribe’s highest court.”
Paden served on the Cherokee Administrative Appeals Board as a special hearing officer from 2013-17 after being appointed by Chief Baker. He is also a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Cherokee Nation Bar Association.