Supreme Court rules Oklahoma has concurrent jurisdiction over non-Indians

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 06/29/2022, 2:57 PM

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the State of Oklahoma has concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians on tribal land.

The case in question, Oklahoma v. Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta, involved a non-Indian who was charged with child neglect of a Cherokee child by the State of Oklahoma in 2015. 

Following the McGirt ruling, Castro-Huerta appealed his case saying the federal government had the exclusive right to prosecute him, and his 35-year conviction was vacated. 

The State of Oklahoma took it to the Supreme Court, who concluded that "the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country," effectively reversing and remanding Castro-Huerta's vacated sentence.  

Read the full SCOTUS opinion here.

Oklahoma Attorney General John was one of the first to celebrate the decision, saying it vindicates his office's year-long effort to protect all Oklahomans, Indians and non-Indians alike. 

"While we still have a long road ahead of us to fix all of the harms our State has experienced as a consequence of McGirt, this is an important first step in restoring law and order in our great State," O'Connor said. 

Supporters of SCOTUS's McGirt decision say it was rather the centuries-long tradition of overlooking sovereignty rights that created the consequences of the 2020 decision.  

And not everyone agreed with Wednesday's decision, including four of the nine justices.  

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

"Where this Court once stood firm, today it wilts," Gorsuch wrote.  "After the Cherokee’s exile to what became Oklahoma, the federal government promised the Tribe that it would remain forever free from interference by state authorities. Now, the State seeks to claim for itself the power to try crimes by non-Indians against tribal members within the Cherokee Reservation. Where our predecessors refused to participate in one State’s unlawful power grab at the expense of the Cherokee, today’s Court accedes to another’s." 

Check back for updates on this developing story. 


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