McGirt Has Come With Many Consequences
Video Transcribed: The municipalities’ response to the class action lawsuit under McGirt. I’m Tulsa criminal attorney, James Wirth, and we’re talking about McGirt and the consequences of what’s going on in the class-action lawsuit.
There have been multiple class-action lawsuits. The one that we’re talking about is the one related to the Muskogee Creek Nation being disestablished based on the McGirt v Oklahoma precedent. Essentially, the Indian defendants, or defendants who the alleged victim in the crime was Native American.
If it occurred in the reservation boundaries, which we now know includes most of Tulsa and some surrounding counties, then the state lacked jurisdiction to charge those defendants.
So, those defendants, four of them have filed a class-action lawsuit requesting their fines, costs, perhaps probation fees, all of that money back. And now that suit was filed against the governor, the DA’s in those counties, as well as the cities, for prosecutions that occurred in municipal court. And now we’ve gotten the response that the cities have filed. Many of them joined together and they’re making these arguments.
And essentially what they’re saying is, first one is that under the Curtis Act, although the state can’t prosecute in their county courts, that municipalities under the Curtis Act are exempted from that.
And they do have the authority to prosecute Native Americans for crimes that occurred on the tribal reservation if that’s also within city limits. So they’re relying on that. That’s going to be a detailed analysis that has to be done by the court.
By my review of it, it’s not going to be a real clear cut. So that could be a good argument for them, but that’s an argument that does not apply to the vast majority of charges. The more serious charges, the bigger fines, and costs that have occurred in state prosecutions, in the district courts, and the counties.
The next argument they’re making, the same as the one the state is making is that this can not be collaterally attacked. That it needs to be, each individual defendant needs to file for post-conviction relief, under the Post Conviction Relief Act. And that that needs to be done rather than this.
I don’t think that’s going to be winter just as I mentioned in the state’s response video I made. The last one, equitable demands, equitable arguments that simply the defendants have waited too long to do this, that they waived the opportunity to do this by entering the pleas, by paying the fines and costs.
And it’s collateral estoppel. This issue’s already been decided when the convictions were entered. And if there was a mutual mistake of law, meaning that both parties believed that the court had jurisdiction at the time, that that should not be grounds equitably, because it would be unfair to do so.
And lastly, they raised just like the state did unclean hands, essentially, they’re saying because these are criminal defendants that they committed crimes, and that’s why they’re paying the fines and costs, that they should not be able to go after equitable relief because they have unclean hands. And as I explained in the prior video related to the state’s response, I don’t think this one makes a lot of sense. That is a valid argument, unclean hands, as a defense to equitable relief.
However, I don’t think it’s applicable here because the alleged criminal acts occurred well prior to the conviction, in the court, and the fines and costs being paid to the court, or the DA’s office, or the prosecutor’s office, when they didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction. So essentially their unclean hands are not directly related enough. There’s not enough nexus between that and the court unlawfully charging them and taking their fines and costs.
So when that was going on, they didn’t have unclean hands, unclean hands were prior. So they’re also alleging venue issues that for the cities that are not located, where they filed this, they filed this in Okmulgee County District Court. For the cities that are not in Okmulgee, that’s an improper venue. They’re arguing that.
So all of these issues are going to be set for a hearing on the motion to dismiss, filed by the city, as well as the motion to dismiss, filed by the state. So look for future videos regarding the status of that.
If you are somebody that may be within this class, then you may want to follow that. If you’ve got questions about whether you’re in the class or not, or about the criminal case that may implicate, or may be entitled to relief under McGirt, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances. You can contact somebody at my office by going to MakeLawEasy.com.