WASHINGTON (KFOR) – The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to end the stay requested by the City of Tulsa in its fight for jurisdiction over Native Americans in Indian Country.
Justin Hooper, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, was cited for speeding in 2018 by Tulsa police in a part of the city within the historic boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
He paid a $150 fine for the ticket, but filed a lawsuit after the Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
He argued that the city did not have jurisdiction because his offense was committed by a Native American in Indian Country.
A municipal court and a federal district court judge both sided with the city, but a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision in June, saying the city does not have authority to prosecute crimes committed by or against tribal citizens while they are within the boundaries of reservation land.
Last week, Justice Gorsuch issued a temporary stay while the court reviewed the case, but now, the justices have officially rejected an emergency appeal by Tulsa to block the ruling while the legal case continues.
There were no noted dissents among the justices Friday, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a short separate opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, in which he said that Tulsa’s appeal raised an important question about whether the city can enforce municipal laws against Native Americans.
Kavanaugh wrote that nothing in the appeals court decision “prohibits the City from continuing to enforce its municipal laws against all persons, including Indians, as the litigation progresses.”
“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation learned this afternoon that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the City of Tulsa’s application of a stay pending the filing of its petition for certiorari of the Tenth Circuit’s ruling in Hooper v. Tulsa. We are grateful that the Court saw no merit in this procedural attempt to delay the law and Tribal authority while this case is pending. More than enough taxpayer money has been spent on these baseless legal maneuvers. Although this case is not over, we look forward to continued collaboration with our municipal partners to protect public safety across our reservation.”Muscogee National Statement
“Today’s news from the U.S. Supreme Court affirms what we have said all along — the best way forward is through collaboration, not wasteful legal fights. The 10th circuit’s Hooper decision upheld tribal sovereignty and settled federal law – reaffirming that states and municipalities do not have criminal jurisdiction over Indians in Indian Country. Once again, we hope elected leaders throughout Oklahoma will join with tribes in meeting our shared public safety goals. I’m calling for collaboration, cooperation and an end to the attacks on tribal sovereignty.”Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
“The Supreme Court, through Justice Kavanaugh’s statement, made clear today that the City of Tulsa and municipalities throughout the eastern half of Oklahoma can and must still apply their laws to everyone, Indians and non-Indians alike. The 10th Circuit’s decision isn’t final and doesn’t change how we operate here in Oklahoma. Any statement to the contrary should be seen for what it is— a call to chaos. This is a victory for Oklahoma and the rule of law. I will not let eastern Oklahoma become a reservation.”Governor Kevin Stitt