POLICY REMINDER: Lawmakers: McGirt Is More A Federal Issue Than A State | New
A clear rift between Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and the state’s native tribes remains, as evidenced by the governor’s comments on the McGirt ruling last week during his Tulsa State House address.
Stitt called the McGirt decision the most pressing issue facing the state. Attorney General John O’Connor has filed five petitions with the United States Supreme Court to try to overturn the ruling, that the Muscogee Nation reservation was never overturned by Congress. This has resulted in a shift in jurisdictional authorities, as crimes involving Native Americans must now be tried in federal or tribal courts.
“I have said all along that this decision creates uncertainty in our state,” Stitt said. “This threatens the sovereignty of Oklahoma and creates a nightmare for the public safety of victims and law enforcement.”
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the McGirt ruling did not apply to retroactive convictions, meaning those previously convicted of crimes in state courts would not apply. cannot have their case canceled. Despite the ruling, Stitt said McGirt remains a threat to state sovereignty.
The five tribes have expressed their willingness to work with the state and federal government to address jurisdictional issues as they arise and protect public safety. However, Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the governor was undermining cooperation between local, state and federal officials with scare tactics and divisive language about McGirt.
“When Governor Stitt’s attempt to get the United States to break its treaty obligations and demand that the Supreme Court overturn its year-old decision fails, we hope he will join his fellow Oklahoma people in the seeking justice and public safety rather than political theater, ”he said. “In the meantime, we will continue to work cooperatively to support our people and everyone across the state.”
The governor’s speech drew negative reactions from Democrats across the state, including state representative Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, who said his remarks were divisive.
“In his speech he did not mention the 7,800 Oklahomans we have lost to COVID and he did not mention COVID at all. There was no call for citizens to do so. vaccinate or any plan to protect the voters who elected him, “he said. “Instead, the governor chose to show unnecessary hostility to our state’s oldest allies, the sovereign tribal nations. At a time when we should be working together, the governor continued to use national talking points and political rhetoric to divide the Oklahomans. “
The state reportedly hired a foreign law firm to represent Oklahoma in the Bosse case. Death row inmate Shaun Bosse, on death row for the murder of a woman and her two children, was overturned, but the High Court ordered a stay. Now Oklahoma is asking the court to determine whether states have jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in the Indian country.
According to McAlester News-Capital, which secured the contract between the state and the law firm under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, the total cost of the firm’s legal services should not exceed $ 700,000.
“I don’t think the state needs to spend money trying to overturn it in federal courts,” State Senator Dewayne Pemberton R-Muskogee said. “I think they need to let the state work with the different tribes and create new agreements that will allow the state and the tribes to work together.”
Pemberton added that he sees the McGirt decision as more of a problem for the federal government than the state.
State Representative Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah, said he didn’t think anyone was ready for the ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling. To him, it doesn’t matter which entity has the power to prosecute a crime, as long as the criminals are held accountable for their actions.
“To me, if you break the law, I don’t care who judges you, but you have to spend your day in court,” he said. “If someone beats you, steals your watch and your backpack, you want them to be tried somewhere and punished for their crime.”
Since the McGirt High Court ruling, a myriad of convoluted information has been dispersed. To better understand the situation, Cherokee County Democratic Party Chairperson Yolette Ross said she hopes to bring a guest speaker to one of the group’s meetings to explain the fallout.
Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Josh Owen and Cherokee County Libertarian Party Chairman Shannon Grimes did not respond to media inquiries at press time.