District Judge Deanna Hartley-Kelso

District Judge Deanna Hartley-Kelso

Deanna Hartley-Kelso was appointed as a Special Judge for the Chickasaw Nation District Court in March of 2018 and hears family, civil and criminal matters.

She is a shareholder and President of Hartley Kelso, P.C., in Ada, Oklahoma, focusing primarily on Indian law matters relating to business, gaming, transactional, governmental and legislative matters. Her tribal clients include both large and small tribes, primarily located in Oklahoma. She is licensed in the courts of the Chickasaw Nation, the states of Oklahoma and Texas, and the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado and the United States Supreme Court.

She is also an Assistant Professor at East Central University in the Stonecipher School of Business, teaching Business Law and Employment Law Classes. She is also an adjunct professor in the MJIL program at the Tulsa University College of Law, teaching Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country and Principles of Federal Indian Law.

Ms. Hartley-Kelso previously worked for the Chickasaw Nation from 1997 to 2014. During her tenure with the Nation, she served as attorney general as well as an executive officer and administrator of the Nation’s division of justice from 2004-2014. She served as general counsel from 2001-2004 and legislative counsel from 1997-2001. Starting in 2001, she established an in-house legal department which later became the attorney general’s office and participated in numerous projects which enabled development of legal, judicial and law enforcement infrastructure for the Nation, including revising and updating various provisions of the tribal code, key roles in developing and implementing the nation's criminal code, establishing a prosecutor's office, developing, compacting and re-establishing both tribal law enforcement and the tribal court, developing and implementing a juvenile justice program and developing the framework under tribal law for a tribally owned bank. She has extensive drafting experience with tribal employment policies, conducting employment related hearings and developing training presentations and materials for tribal employees.

As for professional memberships, she serves on the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and served as the President of the Chickasaw Bar Association in 2013-2014. She holds memberships with the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association, Native American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. She is also a 20-year fellow of the College of the State Bar of the State of Texas, an organization recognizing professionalism through education.

As for community service, she serves with the Chickasaw Foundation Board of Trustees, previously served on the Arkansas Riverbed Authority from 2001 to 2014, and served on numerous other boards and committees within the Chickasaw Nation during her tenure. She was appointed as an advisory board member for the Eastern Oklahoma region to the Indian Law and Order Commission and provided testimony on related issues in Indian Country. She was appointed by Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry to the Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs Board (2009-2013) and served as its 2012 chair. She represented the Chickasaw Nation at the 2004 United Nations Human Rights Working Group on the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland, and provided subsequent testimony in 2012 to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.