TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa for “deliberately and unlawfully prosecuting tribal citizens” for traffic violations while they’re within reservation boundaries.
The suit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The Nation says despite the Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling and the subsequent 10th Circuit Hooper ruling that affirm tribal nations’ jurisdiction in Indian Country, the City of Tulsa continues to prosecute tribal citizens for traffic offenses committed on reservation land.
“We filed this suit today because the City of Tulsa is willingly and knowingly violating federal law,” said Geri Wisner, the Nation’s Attorney General. “There is no legal basis for current city policies dealing with citizens of tribal nations and we are asking the court to require the city to follow the law.”
The City of Tulsa submitted an appeal of the 10th Circuit’s Hooper ruling, which determined the city does not have authority to prosecute crimes committed by tribal citizens while they are within the boundaries of reservation land.
In August, Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a temporary stay while the court reviewed the case, but a week later, the justices rejected the emergency appeal by Tulsa to block the ruling while the legal case continues.
Tulsa’s ongoing prosecutions therefore violate federal law, infringe on the rights of Tribal citizens within the Nation’s jurisdiction, and interfere with the Nation’s federally protected right to self-government, including the functioning of its own comprehensive and robust criminal justice system.
The Mayor of Tulsa has recently stated that litigation is not the preferable means to resolve Indian country jurisdictional issues, and the Nation fully agrees. However, Tulsa is presently asserting criminal jurisdiction over individual Indians in the state and municipal courts, and aggressively so, notwithstanding clear and binding precedent against its practices. Tulsa cannot reasonably expect the Nation to stay on the sidelines while Tulsa attacks its sovereignty within the Nation’s Reservation in cases to which the Nation is not even a party.Muscogee (Creek) Nation news release
The lawsuit argues the City of Tulsa continues its prosecutions of tribal citizens in Indian Country based on the Supreme Court’s Castro-Huerta ruling, which allows the state to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes against tribal citizens in Indian Country.
Since McGirt, the Nation generally has received no referrals from the City of Tulsa for Indian traffic offenses within the Reservation. Tulsa instead has persisted in prosecuting these matters unilaterally despite referring an array of other criminal matters involving Indian defendants to the Nation.Muscogee (Creek) Nation v. City of Tulsa
Now, the Nation is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to keep the city from prosecuting tribal citizens for traffic violations while on the Creek Reservation.
Our Nation has always been a leader in the fight to defend tribal sovereignty. We continue to welcome government-to-government cooperation with the City of Tulsa. But we will not stand by and watch the City disregard our sovereignty and our own laws by requiring Muscogee and other tribal citizens to respond to citations in Tulsa city court because of the City’s make-believe legal theories.Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill
KFOR reached out to the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department. The police referred us to the city.
As Mayor Bynum stated two weeks ago in his State of the City address, he is eager to work with tribal partners to resolve these issues and render litigation unnecessary. This latest lawsuit is a duplication of several lawsuits that are already pending in state and federal courts to decide these issues. As such, the City of Tulsa has no further comment at this time.Michelle Brooks, Director of Communications