Oklahoma US Attorney Weighs In On Supreme Court McGirt Decision


Monday, August 10th 2020, 10:47 pm
By: Bonnie Campo


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s Office is weighing in on a recent United States Supreme Court ruling that impacts Oklahoma.

McGirt v. Oklahoma sets law enforcement's jurisdiction on tribal lands.

U.S. Attorney Tim Downing said as of right now, the ruling only applies to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

That means criminal and civil cases involving a Native American on tribal land do not fall under the jurisdiction of Oklahoma courts.

Rather, those cases involving tribes should be heard in federal court.

The state has asked for clarification on if other tribes will be impacted by the ruling.

They are partnering with federal prosecutors while awaiting that decision.

"All of the different tribes in the state, that is a potential, but that is for a court of law, and have a court of competent jurisdiction to make that determination the same way it happened in McGirt," said Downing. 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has said that across the state he expects between 1,500 to 2,000 cases to be challenged. 

He said so far, about a dozen have been transferred to federal court.

Hunter was asked if inmates will be released from prison as the await a new federal trial.

"I hope not. We are working to make sure individuals who have committed serious crimes don't escape the debt they owe to society," said Hunter.

Jurisdictional negotiations are ongoing with five Oklahoma tribes, after a previous agreement fell-through.

Tribal leaders said citizens are concerned of losing their sovereignty.

The attorney general said they will maintain that sovereignty, but simply need to have a protocol in place stating what agencies can investigate tribal cases, and who should prosecute them.

Hunter said convicts and their attorneys have become creative in their efforts regarding early release.

His office is prepared to battle a surge of inmates who will apply even if they don’t qualify.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation is more than an hour away from Oklahoma City, and covers an area closer to Tulsa. 

While other U.S. Attorneys are navigating the court's decision, here in the metro, law enforcement is at the ready.

"Muscogee (Creek) Nation does not touch my district, but we are preparing and looking at possible cases that if the opinion were to be expanded to other tribes. We would be prepared to pursue charges where necessary," said Downing.

AG Hunter is working with Downing's office to file new charges if cases are successfully challenged at the state level. 

Hunter said he will make every effort to defend previous convictions as the number of appeals rise.