McGirt: 10th Cir. Rules City of Tulsa Can’t Prosecute Indians for Traffic Offenses (Hooper v. Tulsa)
My name is Tulsa attorney James Wirth. Today, we will discuss a brand new decision that came out on June 28, 2023, from the 10th Circuit. The case, numbered 22-5034, deals with the city of Tulsa and its jurisdiction post-McGirt. McGirt was the decision in the summer of 2020 that stated the Muscogee Creek Nation was never disestablished, and therefore all of its territories are still Indian country. This decision was followed by the other five tribes and one additional tribe, which means that all of Tulsa County and the city of Tulsa are now considered tribal reservations.
The question arises whether the city of Tulsa can still prosecute Indians for criminal offenses, including traffic offenses, now that the state of Oklahoma under McGirt does not have jurisdiction. The city of Tulsa argued that since it existed before statehood and was a political subdivision of the federal government at that time, it should still be considered part of that system and have the authority to prosecute Indians. They contended that these cases could be appealed through the federal system to the federal district court, northern district court, the 10th Circuit, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, instead of the historical route through the district court in Tulsa County and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
10th Circuit Decision: City of Tulsa Does Not Have Jurisdiction
However, in the case of Hooper v. Tulsa, the defendant argued that the city of Tulsa court never had jurisdiction over them because they were Native American and the offense occurred in Indian territory. The federal district court initially sided with the city of Tulsa, but the case was appealed to the 10th Circuit. On June 28th, the 10th Circuit ruled that the city of Tulsa does not have the authority to prosecute Indians. They stated that the Curtis Act, which the city relied on to assert its jurisdiction, is no longer applicable since Tulsa is now a political subdivision of Oklahoma, not the federal government.
This decision has significant implications for those with convictions, traffic offenses, and misdemeanors in Tulsa Municipal Court. Anyone who falls under these categories may want to consider filing a post-conviction relief based on this ruling. Additionally, if you are a Native American with a pending case in the city of Tulsa, according to the 10th Circuit decision, that court does not have jurisdiction over your case.
While this decision may seem to be the end of the matter, there are a few possibilities to consider. Firstly, the 10th Circuit found that they do not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal in this case since the issue is now a state matter. However, the defendant also requested a declaratory judgment, which would go back to the district court for a ruling in line with the 10th Circuit opinion. This ruling would confirm that the city of Tulsa does not have jurisdiction.
The city of Tulsa has indicated that they are likely to appeal this decision to the United States Supreme Court. Although the chances of the Supreme Court accepting the case are uncertain, given its importance and the potential impact on numerous cases related to McGirt, there is a possibility they may choose to review it.
Get Legal Advice and Schedule a Consultation
If you are dealing with any legal matters related to McGirt, tribal jurisdictions, and the city of Tulsa, it is crucial to seek legal advice. Contact an attorney privately and confidentially to discuss your specific situation and get the guidance you need. You can schedule a consultation with an Oklahoma McGirt lawyer at our office by visiting our website at MakeLawEasy.com.