TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – United States Attorney General William Barr was in Oklahoma Wednesday for a roundtable discussion with the Cherokee Nation.
The two sides discussed the landmark Supreme Court McGirt decision that said the majority of East Oklahoma, including Tulsa, is still an Indian Reservation.
Thanks to the ruling, major crimes committed on the reservation go to federal court, while lesser ones committed by tribal members will go to tribal court.
Barr says the Department of Justice is already taking steps to help with the changes in criminal jurisdiction.
“The department will provide funds to hire two prosecutors for the Eastern District and two prosecutors for the Northern district from tribal prosecutors,” Barr said. “They will be cross designated so they can handle cases in north tribal courts and federal courts.”
The short-term solution is a $2 million commitment by the DOJ over the next three years. Those prosecutors will be cross designated so they can work cases in both federal and tribal court. Barr says the plan is to eventually move 30 prosecutors, as well as additional staff from around the country, to Oklahoma.
In the past two months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma has prosecuted 114 cases; it usually handles around 230 cases for an entire year.
“Many state law enforcement officers are familiarizing themselves with tribal reservation boundaries for the first time,” Cherokee Principle Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Learning about jurisdictional rules that operate in Indian Country.”
Barr and Cherokee Nation leaders say this type of cooperation is crucial as law officers navigate the effects of the McGirt ruling.
“We value our strong partnership with the Cherokee Nation,” Barr said. “I’m here to discuss how we can strengthen it going forward.”
The same goes for Washington, where Barr says they are working on a more permanent solution that works for everybody.
“I know McGirt is on everyone’s mind,” Barr said. “In Washington, the Department of Justice is working closely with the Oklahoma delegation to try and come up with a legislative approach that is supported by all sides.”
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