Judge: CN courts can’t hear opioids case

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
01/11/2018 08:00 AM
TULSA – U.S. District Judge Terence Kern on Jan. 9 ruled that the Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies and distributors cannot be heard in the tribe’s District Court.

The CN filed the suit in April alleging that six companies are failing to prevent the flow of illegally prescribed opioids to CN citizens within the tribe’s jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma.

The tribe accused the McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of “perpetuating” a prescription opioid abuse epidemic within the counties that comprise the CN.

Lawyers for the companies in June filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to determine whether the tribe’s courts have jurisdiction in the case.

The companies’ motion states that CN courts have no jurisdiction over the businesses and asks the federal court to dismiss the case.

“None of plaintiffs here are tribal members or tribal corporations. Moreover, none of plaintiffs’ conduct at issue occurred in Indian Country,” the motion states. “As domestic dependent quasi-sovereign nations, the jurisdiction of Indian tribes over non-Indians is strictly limited.”

On Jan. 9, Kern ruled for the companies by stating the tribe’s courts do not have jurisdiction.

“This proceeding concerns a lawsuit by the Cherokee Nation against a number of opioid distributors and pharmacies. However, the question before the Court is not the merits of the Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit but rather the boundaries of tribal court jurisdiction,” states Kern’s ruling. “The Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation has filed suit not in state court but in the tribal district court of the Cherokee Nation. Do the tribal courts of the Cherokee Nation have jurisdiction over this particular action? The Court finds they do not.”

Following the ruling, Hembree said the CN would keep fighting in state court to hold the companies accountable.

“We continue to believe in our case, and we are prepared to fight to hold these companies accountable in state court. The opioid crisis in the Cherokee Nation was fueled by the defendants’ decision to prioritize profits over the well-being of Cherokee citizens,” he said. “In 2015 and 2016 alone, distributors shipped and pharmacies dispensed 184 million opioid pain pills in the 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma that comprise the Cherokee Nation – or 153 doses for every man, woman and child. The defendants knowingly turned a blind eye to the harm they caused and have not changed their conduct, but this cycle ends now. We are confident in the case we’ve prepared and look forward to quickly re-filing our lawsuit.”

In his ruling, Kern wrote that it’s “undisputed” the country is in an opioid crisis.

“Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States, and the President of the United States has declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency,” he states. “The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that from 2000 to 2016, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. The majority of these drug overdose deaths (more than six out of 10) involved an opioid and 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”

However, his ruling states because the tribal court “clearly lacks jurisdiction” further proceedings there “would serve no purpose other than delay” and would “impose a substantial burden on the six companies.

“Accordingly, plaintiffs (six companies) have met their burden to show irreparable injury to justify a preliminary injunction,” states the ruling.

In April, AmerisourceBergen released a statement claiming it stops the shipment of (drug) orders it believes are suspicious. “The issue of opioid abuse is a complex one that spans the full health care spectrum, including manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, prescribers, pharmacists and regulatory and enforcement agencies.”

Cardinal Health said in a statement that it will defend itself against the allegations and believes the lawsuit does not advance “the hard work needed to solve the opioid abuse crisis – an epidemic driven by addiction, demand and the diversion of medications for illegitimate use.”

CVS Health said it has stringent policies and procedures to determine whether a controlled substance prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose before a pharmacist fills it. Walgreens said it does not comment on pending litigation, and Wal-Mart did not comment.
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
06/19/2018 08:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – After waiving his Cherokee Nation rights to employee privacy, John Ross Baker publicly admitted on June 18 that he was the nurse responsible for a lapse in protocol by incorrectly administering medications and potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. “I, John Baker, RN, am deeply sorry that my actions have caused such anxiety to these families. When I understood that I may not have been following proper procedures, I immediately began working with health care professionals to identify any mistakes that may have been made and cooperated in every possible way and then I resigned,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s 34-year-old son said in a written statement. “I love caring for patients and would never knowingly put anyone at risk. My late mother was a nurse and I feel as though I inherited her passion for caring for others. I believe I was called to the nursing profession and I hope to serve patients with the same concern and compassionate care as she did, and I’ve always hoped she would be proud of the man I am. She and my father always taught me to take responsibility for my actions.” According to a CN press release, Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was informed on April 29 of a protocol lapse involving the administration of medication for surgical patients. Health Services officials said the lapse occured from January to April and involved using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag, potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. However, Health Services officials said patients were never directly in contact with any needle. “In all instances, medication was administered into an IV bag, or tubing. The likelihood of blood borne pathogens traveling up the lines into an IV bag or IV tubing to cause cross contamination from using the same syringe is extremely remote,” officials said. Health Services officials said all 186 patients had been contacted and that 118 had returned for testing. They also said no patients had shown any signs of exposure. In a June 11 Health Committee meeting, Hail said the CN’s medication diversion prevention program discovered the protocol lapse and reported it to Health Services in late April. Hail also told Tribal Councilors he couldn’t reveal the nurse’s name at that time because of employee privacy rights but did say the nurse was no longer employed with the tribe. Hail said the incident was also not limited to the dental department, confirming there was a “cross” into other departments and areas, including the operating room. When asked by Tribal Councilors if any disciplinary action had been taken against the nurse, Hail declined to comment, citing “employment matters.” He also told legislators that it wasn’t the Health Services’ responsibility to report any potential incidents to revoke a medical license. According to a press releasse, John Baker resigned from Hastings Hospital on May 1 and isn’t employed at the CN or its entities in any capacity. According to a June 8 screenshot of his Facebook account, he was a RN at Hastings Hospital from Sept. 25, 2017, to May 2018 and was hired on May 14 by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager. However, Traditions Home Care’s human resources department on June 19 told the Cherokee Phoenix that John Baker is not employed with the company and declined to comment further. A CN press release also states the protocol lapse incident was reported to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. According to a readfrontier.org report, the OBN issued John Baker his registered nurse’s license on June 26, 2017, and that the licence is still active. An OBN official told the Cherokee Phoenix that she could neither confirm nor deny whether the board is conducting an investigation of the protocol lapse and that there were no public records available concerning the issue. Chief Baker also issued a written statement on June 18 regarding the situation. “I am deeply saddened by these events and my hear aches for everyone involved. As a father, it is difficult to witness my son experiencing the pain caused by his actions. His decision to pursue a career in service to others continue to fill me with pride to this day,” Chief Baker said. “John’s honesty, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility is representative of his values and the quality of man that he is. As Chief of this great nation I know that no one is exempt from the rules. Rules and procedures throughout our nation apply to everyone equally. That is most certainly the case here. I want to strongly encourage anyone who sees wrongdoing of any kind throughout our nation to know their voice will be heard and their concerns will be properly addressed. I’m grateful for the health care workers who helped identify this lapse and their continued service to the Cherokee Nation Health Services and the patients they care for.” According to a press release, Chief Baker requested that Health Services Executive Director Dr. Charles Grim lead a four-person panel to “review the events, evaluate best practices and improve medication administration procedures.” It also states the panel is to report its findings in August to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden because Chief Baker has recused himself to ensure the review’s independence. The protocol lapse came to light after CN citizen John Wagnon, of Grove, spoke publicly about being identified as a potentially exposed patient following a dental procedure in January. Wagnon said Health Services called him on June 4 asking him to come in for blood tests, nearly five months after his procedure. Wagnon said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing. <strong>Timeline</strong> <strong>Sept. 25, 2017:</strong> John Ross Baker begins a residency at W.W. Hastings Hospital as a registered nurse, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>January:</strong> Health Services officials say Baker begins the lapse in protocol regarding how medication is administered to surgical patients. Officials say 186 patients are potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis C stemming from Baker’s practice of using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag from January to April. <strong>April:</strong> The Cherokee Nation’s medication diversion prevention program discovers the protocol lapse and reports it to Health Services. <strong>April 29:</strong> Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail is informed of the protocol lapse. <strong>May 1:</strong> Baker resigns from Hastings Hospital. <strong>May 14:</strong> Baker is hired by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>June 7:</strong> The protocol lapse becomes public after a Tulsa-area television news show airs a story with Cherokee Nation citizen John Wagnon saying Hastings Hospital officials asked him to return for HIV and hepatitis C testing months after his dental surgery. <strong>June 11:</strong> Tribal Councilors of the Health Committee ask Hail questions regarding the protocol lapse. Hail cites employee privacy rules when declining to reveal the name of the nurse. <strong>June 18:</strong> Baker issues a written statement acknowleding he was the registered nurse involved in the protocol lapse and apologizes. His father, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, calls for a panel to to investigate the incident and recuses himself from the matter to ensure the review’s independence. <strong>June 19:</strong>Oklahoma Board of Nursing officials decline to confirm or deny that they are investigating the protocol lapse. Traditions Home Care officials say Baker is not employed with them and decline further comment.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH –The applications for the Cherokee Nation’s Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassadors are now available for download. To download an application, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/Cherokee-Ambassadors</a>. The deadline for all competition applications is July 16. For more information, call Lisa Trice-Turtle at 918-453-5000, ext. 4991.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over." Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options. "That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court." TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision. Keystone XL would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada announced in April it was meeting with landowners and starting aerial surveillance of the proposed route. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2019. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action appealed to the South Dakota high court after a judge had affirmed state regulators' approval for the pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission initially authorized TransCanada's project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years. The panel voted in 2016 to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it first approved that state's portion of the project. Cunha said the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska. But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. Separately in Nebraska, a husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm this week deeded a plot of their land to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic Ponca route that tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877. "What the impact will be, I don't know," Tanderup said. "But now, they'll have a voice in this issue. They will be a player at the table." It's not clear whether deeding the land to the tribe would hinder the company or create a new legal argument for the Ponca, given their status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. Brad Jolly, an attorney for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said he was focusing more on overturning state regulators' approval of the pipeline in a case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. "I haven't gotten to all the what-ifs yet," Jolly said. The Keystone pipeline also faces a potential obstacle in a federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St. This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at <a href="mailto: walt@wjkwrites.com">walt@wjkwrites.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking. The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities. Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a> or call 918-341-0719.