Shawna S. Baker, 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.
In addition to serving on the Supreme Court, Justice Baker currently serves on the Cherokee Nation’s Domestic Violence Task Force and as an advisor to Cherokee Nation Health Services on its Ending the HIV Epidemic project. Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Baker served as a Cherokee Nation Gaming Commissioner.
At the national level, she presently serves on the Indian Health Services and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board’s Native Ending the HIV Epidemic Advisory Committee. She is a frequent guest speaker and legal panelist on topics of diversity and the author of scholarly articles on the intersectionality of LGBT rights and estate planning.
On an international level, Yahoo Finance has recognized Justice Baker as an OUTstanding LGBT+ Top 100 Role Model for two years running. Earlier today, Yahoo Finance announced she makes the 2021 list at number 26 and in 2020, she made the list at number 44.
In 2021, the Oklahoma Bar Association celebrated Justice Baker’s contributions to the bench by bestowing upon her the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award for demonstrating dedication to raising issues of diversity and protecting civil and human rights. The University of Tulsa College of Law also honored her with its 2021 Outstanding Senior Alumna Award. And, in 2020, John Brown University recognized Justice Baker as its Career Achievement Award recipient.
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. While at TU Law, Justice Baker was the recipient of many honors. A selection includes the Martin Fellows Smith Award, Order of the Curule Chair, Order of the Barristers, and numerous CALI awards. She also served the student body in various leadership capacities such as Vice-President of the Student Bar Association, President of the Board of Advocates, and on the Energy Law Journal.
In 2006, Justice Baker was admitted to Columbia Law School where she obtained her Masters 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. Furthermore, she was an inaugural class member of the Gender and Sexuality Law Clinic where she co-authored a brief on reparative therapy and proposed legislative language for banning reparative therapy in the State of California. Additionally, she created a searchable database of all city, county, and state recognitions, rights, and or protections for same-sex couples then in existence.
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 2009, she was recognized as the Outstanding Faculty Member of the year by the James Weldon Johnson Chapter of the Black Law Students Association.
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 Masters 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 Masters of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Tulsa, through the joint degree program, and a Bachelors of Science in Biology from John Brown University.