Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. The case threatens to limit the effect of the landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
In the 2020 McGirt case, the Supreme Court held that Congress never disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation and that large areas of eastern Oklahoma remain “Indian country.” Since then, Oklahoma state courts have applied the McGirt holding to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Indian Nations, preventing Oklahoma from asserting criminal jurisdiction in cases involving Indians.
Under Castro-Huerta, tribes are asking the Supreme Court to affirm an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision finding that McGirt prevents Oklahoma from prosecuting a crime by a non-Indian against an Indian within Indian Country. The Appeals Court held that Congress intended to give the Federal government the authority to prosecute these crimes, not states, in passing the Indian General Crimes Act.
Accepting the Castro-Huerta case for argument, the Supreme Court refused to consider overruling the McGirt decision. Instead, the Court’s review will be limited to whether Oklahoma has concurrent jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes against Indian victims in Indian Country. Or whether the Federal government has exclusive jurisdiction under the law to prosecute these cases.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. Our mission is to support and advance the sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-governance of our tribal clients. To learn more about how we can assist your tribe, contact attorney Jeremy Patterson in our Colorado office at (303) 926-5292.