Attorney General O’Connor Calls on U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn or Limit McGirt Decision

Published: 08/06/2021, 6:27 PM

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) Attorney General John O’Connor Friday filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to overturn the 2020 McGirt ruling that held the state does not have jurisdiction to prosecute major crimes committed by Native Americans in a large portion of eastern Oklahoma, including the City of Tulsa.  

The petition also asks the court to narrow any application of the McGirt decision, including allowing the state to continue to imprison violent felons convicted before the McGirt ruling. Also, the petition asks the court to affirm the state’s authority to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans in the former Muscogee (Creek) reservation revived by the Court in McGirt.

Attorney General O’Connor said the McGirt decision is “recklessly overbroad” and has thrown Oklahomans into danger of having no law enforcement respond to a call for help. 

“Victims of atrocious crimes are being revictimized by going through the legal process a second time, and, in some instances, seeing their loved one’s killer set free because federal prosecutors cannot file the claims against the released convicts,” Attorney General O’Connor said. “Some theories sound good in concept but don’t work in the real world. The U.S. Supreme Court got this decision wrong and we are respectfully asking the Court to overturn its decision or to limit it to certain federal crimes. The most effective way to right this terrible wrong is for the court to overturn the McGirt decision. Without action, the negative consequences will damage Oklahomans for years to come.”

The case is centered on the conviction of Shaun Bosse, a non-Native American, who brutally murdered a Chickasaw mother and her two young children.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to keep Bosse on Oklahoma’s death row while they considered reviewing the questions about Oklahoma’s criminal jurisdiction.

In the petition, the State argues that the case should be overruled and submitted evidence of the drastic consequences on the ground in Oklahoma.

“Oklahomans were not notified or afforded due process before their rights were so severely taken. The Biden administration was quick to seize upon the McGirt ruling and to assert control over Oklahoma surface mining,” Attorney General O’Connor said. 

The Attorney General sued the Biden administration to undo that incursion into Oklahoma’s sovereignty over land within its borders.

The Attorney General’s office retained Kannon Shanmugam and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to assist in providing legal representation to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt. Shanmugam is one of the nation’s most renowned appellate litigators, having argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorney general also worked with Ryan Leonard, an Oklahoma City attorney retained by Governor Kevin Stitt, related to this case.

Beginning with Governor Stitt’s words earlier this year describing the fallout from McGirt as the “most pressing issue” for the future of Oklahoma, the petition outlines how the fundamental sovereignty of an American State is a stake. 

“For the reasons stated by the Chief Justice in his dissent, McGirt was wrongly decided, and its disruptive effects in Oklahoma are unprecedented,” the petition reads. “While the Court believed that compromise or congressional action could limit the disruption from its decision, it is now clear that neither is forthcoming.”

“The tribes do not agree among themselves, much less with the State, on the proper path forward and Congress is unlikely to adopt any proposal not supported by all of the parties involved,” it continues. “Only the Court can remedy the problems it has created, and this case provides it with an opportunity to do so before the damage becomes irreversible.”

Read the brief here: 


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