Article VII. Judicial
There is hereby created a Judicial Appeals Tribunal composed of three (3)
members all of whom must be admitted to practice law before the highest Court of
the State of which they are residents, and all of whom shall be members of the
Cherokee Nation, appointed by the Principal Chief and approved by the Council
for such terms as the Council may provide. The purpose of this Tribunal shall be to
hear and resolve any disagreements arising under any provision of this Constitution
and any enactment of the Council. The Council shall provide for a procedure which
shall insure that nay litigant receives due process of law together with prompt and
speedy relief, and shall generally follow that portion of the Oklahoma Statutes
know as the Administrative Procedures Act, Title 75, Oklahoma Statutes, 301 et
seq. The decision of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal shall be final insofar as the
judicial process of the Cherokee Nation is concerned.



CHEROKEE NATION’S SUPREME COURT JUSTICES MEET WITH U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE-Pictured L to R-Cherokee Nation Justice Dwight W. Birdwell; US Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist; CN Justice Ralph F. Keen; CN Justice Philip H. Viles, Jr. Photograph taken on trip to Washington, D.C.


Chief Justice Ralph F. Keen and lovely wife, Karen



Chief Justice Keen has formerly been both Chief Justice of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal and an Associate Justice. He currently serves again as Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice was born in 1934 and raised in the Hominy community of Osage County. After graduating from the Hominy public grade school system, he obtained his high school diploma and certificate of proficiency in printing from Chilocco Agricultural School.

Keen then joined the U.S. Army and served in the United States and in Europe as an Infantry Squad Leader. He then furthered his education at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. The U.S. Air Force then obtained his services as a radar maintenance technician in the United States and Newfoundland. He received an Honorable Discharge.

Back to school at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, and 1962, Keen received a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a minor in English and a major in History.

Keen then became a high school teacher, Linotype instructor at Haskell Indian School, Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, Director of the Utah University’s Bureau of Indian Services, and then Business Manager of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

In 1969, he attended the University of Tulsa College of Law and graduated in 1971 in the upper 10% of his class.
Keen practiced in a partnership law firm, then worked as Deputy Director and Director of the Office of Trust Responsibility for the BIA in Washington, D.C..

In 1977, he established his own private law practice until 1983 when he became the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Although retired since June of 1995, he held the positions of Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief, Civil Division of the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

He has been admitted to practice law in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the United States Eastern District Court, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Before retiring, the Justice had also been a co-owner and publisher of a now defunct county newspaper, and co-owner of a successful international tours travel agency.

Justice Keen and his wife have four children and they reside in Tahlequah.

Justice Dwight W. Birdwell and lovely wife Virginia



Justice Birdwell is the former chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation. He currently serves as an Associate Justice.
Birdwell was born in 1948. He grew up in the Bell community in Adair County. He graduated from Bell Grade School and then Stilwell High School.

Birdwell joined the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam conflict and his heroic actions during combat were awarded with his first Silver Star on January 31, 1968 and his second Silver Star six months later on July 4, 1968. The Bronze Star Medal was awarded to him in September of 1968 for consistently manifesting exemplary professionalism and initiative in obtaining outstanding results from September of 1967 through September of 1968. Birdwell also earned the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal. He is credited not only with saving the lives of many, but also contributing immeasurably to the defeat of the enemy force and the success of the mission. He recently co-authored a book about his experiences.

After his military service, Birdwell received a BA degree in History with double minors in Geography and Political Science from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. He was a member of a scholastic honor society, Alpha Chi and graduated in the top ten percent of the undergraduate class.

From there, Birdwell went to the Oklahoma University College of Law where he graduated in the top ten percent of his class in 1976. While there, he belonged to the Order of the Coif, a scholastic honor society restricted to the top ten percent of the graduating class and was the recipient of numerous Am. Jr. awards.

Birdwell was admitted to the Oklahoma State Bar in 1976 and has been a partner in Birdwell & Associates in Oklahoma City. His practice concentrates in Energy, Natural Resources and Indian Law. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Chief Justice Birdwell and his wife Virginia [Bean], have 2 children, a daughter, Stephanie Elaine and a son, Edward Lyndon.. Mrs. Birdwell is from the Pea Vine community in Adair county and she is also a Cherokee Tribal member. The Birdwells work and leave in Oklahoma City but they still maintain their home in Bell, Oklahoma, their real home.

Justice Philip A. Viles, Jr.










Justice Viles is the senior member of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal. He previously served from 1976 to 1981 as Justice, and was appointed Chief Justice from 1981 through 1994. He currently serves as Associate Justice.
Viles was born in Chelsea of Rogers County to an old Cherokee family in 1946. He graduated as Valedictorian of his Claremore High School class.

Viles received his Bachelors of Art in Economics in 1968 from the University of Virginia While there his activities included being on the college daily newspaper staff, and participating in journalism, social, and business clubs.

Viles then spent 4 years in the U.S. Air Force as Communications and Electronics Officer. Viles had Top Secret clearance and received the Vietnamese Medal of Honor (First Class) and USAF Commendation Medal for accomplishments. He was honorably discharged in 1972 as Captain.

Viles then completed his J.D. at the University of Law- Tulsa in 1975. He was on the Dean’s honor roll, and finished in the top one-third of his class.

Viles has been employed as a second vice president of a bank and trust company, and president and partner of two companies.
In 1983, he graduated with a M.B.A. from the University of Tulsa. His G.P.A. was 3.4

Until 1994, Viles worked in the private practice of law. His memberships and affiliations have varied from Arts Institute, Historical Society, Rotary Club, and Advisory Boards where he has held many official positions. He was previously the Chairman and Director of Cherokee Nation Industries from 1986 to 1988, and a previous Commissioner of the Housing Authority of Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Viles currently holds for-profit directorships in a local bank in Claremore. He has also published a book on the history of the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Congress Building.

Viles is a member of the Oklahoma bar, and is admitted to practice before U.S. District Courts in Eastern Oklahoma District and Northern Oklahoma District, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Viles, a grandson of former Cherokee Principal Chief J. Bartley Milam, and his wife have 3 children reside in Tulsa.