Oklahoma’s newly-appointed Attorney General John O’Connor said he wants to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on tribal jurisdiction, but is willing to work with the tribes.
O'Connor said he'll fight for Oklahomans and work to make the Attorney General's office better, but his tough stance on the ruling caught the attention of tribes. They hope O'Connor will work with - and not against - them.
“If the question is, ‘Will we oppose McGirt?’ The answer is yes. If the question is, ‘Will we seek the overturning by the Supreme Court of McGirt?’ The answer is yes. Will we try to work with the tribes? Absolutely," O’Connor said.
O'Connor's fundamental problem with the McGirt ruling is how it's being expanded past federal crimes and into civil actions he believes infringe on the state.
“The Supreme Court is usually right, but sometimes even they make a mistake,” O’Connor said.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. doesn't see it that way.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision remains the most important case in support of tribal sovereignty in many generations," Hoskin said in a statement. "It remains clear that they are exploiting the understandable anxiety caused by the most dramatic change in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system in over a century."
Beyond the at-times tense conversation around tribal sovereignty, both sides say they want to work together.
“I have high regard for the tribes, we’ve all grown up with the tribes as our neighbors, and they’ve been good neighbors,” O'Connor said.
"We hope Oklahoma’s new Attorney General is prepared to work with tribal nations to steer the public debate away from conflict and toward collaboration,” Chief Hoskin said.
The sentiment was echoed in a statement by the Choctaw Nation saying, "We look forward to creating a positive dialogue with Mr. O’Connor that respects the sovereignty of the Choctaw Nation and all tribes in Oklahoma."