Tulsa Attorney BlogDoes the McGirt Precedent Apply to Municipal Cases? Tulsa Says No!

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Video Transcribed: Does the McGirt precedent apply to municipal cases? I’m McGirt attorney James Wirth. And we’re talking about the scope of the McGirt precedent, which was the July 9th of 2020 decision by the United States Supreme Court that ruled the Muskogee Creek historic reservation boundaries were never disestablished and, therefore, a good chunk of Northeast Oklahoma is still reservation land. And that ruling is widely expected to also apply to the other five civilized… Or the other four of the five civilized tribes, as well as other tribes.

And what that ruling means is that, based on prior federal law and the application of McGirt extending the boundaries of what we understand the Indian reservations to be, on those reservation lands, Indians cannot be charged with crimes in state court because the state lacks jurisdiction, lacks subject matter jurisdiction. So, those crimes can only be charged in federal court or in tribal court. But can they be charged in municipal court, in city court?

Well, that’s the question for this video. And because municipality cities are a political subdivision of the state, it makes common sense that if the state lacks jurisdiction that the city would lack jurisdiction as well.

Also, there are laws establishing that, for the most part, the cities cannot do anything beyond what the state could do. So, if the city wants to make DUI illegal, the law doesn’t allow them to take the punishment any worse than that allowable under state law. So, there’s a lot of things that kind of restrict the city from being under the state.

However, we have a very recent decision, decided February 2nd of 2021, where judge McCune of Tulsa Municipal Court has ruled that McGirt does not apply to the City of Tulsa.

The argument here is that the Curtis Act from 1898 in section 14 has not been repealed according to that judge’s ruling. And under that decision, when cities were made, prior to statehood, they had the jurisdiction to charge their residents irrespective of their race. And that’s what it says in section 14.

However, there is reason to believe that section 14 is no longer applicable, but there’s no clear precedent exactly on point here. So there is still debate. There’s a lot of reason to believe that the cities do not have jurisdiction.

But here’s, at least, one reason to believe that they do. That’s the way they’re being ruled in Tulsa Municipal Court right now. So, it’s still a contested issue. We’re going to be following it.

If you’ve got questions on how it may apply to your circumstances, if you’ve been charged in a municipal court and you’re Native American, or you’re charged in municipal court and the victim of the alleged crime is Native American, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances. To talk to somebody in my office you can schedule that by going to makelaweasy.com.

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