OKALHOMA (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s new attorney general is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its own ruling on tribal sovereignty, better known as the “McGirt Ruling”, and give the criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans on tribal land back to the state.
Attorney General John O’Connor called the McGirt decision “recklessly overbroad” and said it’s throwing some Oklahomans into the danger of having no law enforcement show up to their calls for help. The AG wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn or limit the decision before damages become irreversible.
“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,” O’Connor said back in July, after he was first appointed.
Friday, the AG said, “The most effective way to right this terrible wrong is for the court to overturn the McGirt decision.”
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling put more than half of Oklahoma back into Indian Territory, making it up to the federal government to handle any crimes or cases that occur on tribal land.
“It does reestablish what sovereignty was supposed to be,” Native American Law Attorney Robert Gifford told KFOR back in March. “It recognizes the rights of those tribes.”
O’Connor’s petition came one day after an Oklahoma death row inmate was reconvicted in federal court of murder and kidnapping; it was same inmate whose challenge ultimately led to the Supreme Court ruling.
“Victims of atrocious crimes are being revictimized by going through the legal process a second time, and, in some instances, seeing their loved one’s killer set free because federal prosecutors cannot file the claims against the released convicts,” O’Connor said. “Some theories sound good in concept but don’t work in the real world. The U.S. Supreme Court got this decision wrong and we are respectfully asking the court to overturn its decision or to limit it to certain federal crimes. The most effective way to right this terrible wrong is for the court to overturn the McGirt decision. Without action, the negative consequences will damage Oklahomans for years to come.”
“The sky is not falling. There’s not a person who has been released that has not gone through our court system or who has not been prosecuted for the crime that has been done,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said. “We are responsible. We are stepping up.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. released the following statement on the matter:
“The United States government promised us, through treaty, a reservation and the authority to govern our citizens. It has been over a year since the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision reaffirmed that promise, during which tribes have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies to cooperate on supporting victims and keeping Oklahomans safe. After over a century of the state of Oklahoma illegally acting outside of its jurisdiction, it is not surprising that there are still defendants who must be tried by tribal or federal courts, still victims who must be supported during this transitional time, and other work that must be done to reverse the suppression of our nation’s justice system. But tribes and our partners have proven themselves up to the task.
Unfortunately, the governor and the attorney general of Oklahoma have chosen not to join these efforts but to once again seek to undermine cooperation by attempting to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling. With today’s filing in Bosse v. Oklahoma, they have made clear this was never about protecting victims or stopping crime, but simply advancing an anti-Indian political agenda. The governor has never attempted to cooperate with the tribes to protect all Oklahomans. It is perfectly clear that it has always been his intent to destroy Oklahoma’s reservations and the sovereignty of Oklahoma tribes, no matter what the cost might be.CHUCK HOSKING JR., CHEROKEE NATION PRINCIPAL NATION
We look forward to the Supreme Court again affirming the law and our reservations, and hope the governor and attorney general can put aside their political posturing to do what is right for all the people of Oklahoma.”
Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham says, “We are carefully reviewing Oklahoma’s petition and will address it in due course. In the meantime, our focus remains working with our partners to keep our communities safe.”
“Last year, the Supreme Court ruled the U.S. government must keep the promises it made in treaties, and tribal sovereignty must be respected. These are basic legal principles,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said. “While the decision changed how the state and tribes work together on criminal matters, we remain committed to fostering a positive relationship and, most importantly, working with a wide variety of agencies to protect our communities.”