DOJ requests Supreme Court to overturn Royal v. Murphy

DOJ requests Supreme Court to overturn Royal v. Murphy
(Library of Congress website) The Royal v. Murphy case has the potential to define the term Indian Country, as well as the state of Oklahoma. Pictured is a map created in October 1866 of Indian Territory.

Jessica McBride/Managing Editor

Oklahoma entities file briefs in support of State

WASHINGTON — Three amicus briefs were filed March 9 with the U.S. Supreme Court for the Royal v. Murphy case, which could define what is Indian Country and what is considered Oklahoma.

The landmark case known as Royal v. Murphy will decide what court has the authority to try Muscogee (Creek) citizen Patrick Murphy for committing murder within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation jurisdiction, but not on MCN-owned or trust land.

Previously, MCN had jurisdiction over land in trust or restricted status (original allotments), and other parcels within the boundaries were under the jurisdiction of the State of Oklahoma.

In the latter half of 2017, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress had not disestablished the MCN reservation created by an 1866 treaty, and therefore the State of Oklahoma lacked the jurisdiction to try and sentence Murphy for murder because he is a Muscogee (Creek) citizen and the crime occurred in Indian Country.

‘The decision… threatens to disrupt the distribution of governmental authority in nearly half of Oklahoma,’ attorneys state in brief submitted on behalf of the United States.

It is the opinion of the U.S. Department of Justice that the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling is incorrect and the land area in question is not a reservation.

‘Contrary to the court’s view, Congress disestablished the Creek Nation’s historic territory when, in preparation for and granting Oklahoma statehood, it broke up and allotted the Creek Nation’s lands, displaced tribal jurisdiction, and provided for application of state law and state jurisdiction,’ the brief states.

View the U.S. amicus brief.

A brief for several entities including the State Chamber of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association is written in support of the State of Oklahoma and agrees with the DOJ that Congress disestablished the MCN reservation.

‘The decision opens the proverbial can of worms regarding civil jurisdiction over Amici (entities listed in brief) and other, similarly situated, nonmembers and businesses in Eastern Oklahoma,’ the brief states.

View SCO and OOGA amicus brief.

A brief submitted on behalf of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association also requests a reversal of the appellate court’s decision.

‘In short, the Tenth Circuit’s erroneous decision, which ignored both history and precedent to overturn the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals—in the context of deferential AEDPA (Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) review—cries out for correction,’ the brief states.

View OIPA amicus brief.

Murphy’s counsel has until April 9 to file the brief in opposition to Oklahoma’s petition to the Supreme Court.

A stay has been issued in the case, pending Oklahoma’s appeal to the Supreme Court, which means Native American offenders with similar cases are waiting for the potential to have their cases retried in tribal or federal court.

According to a Supreme Court media guide, the court receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions each term to hear cases. Around 80 of them are granted.

The guide states the court usually responds to petitions within six weeks.

Mvskoke Media will continue to follow the case as it develops.


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  • Karen
    March 24, 2018, 11:58 am

    Question about state income taxes,how would this case affect employees who work for the Tribe? I have heard from some people that have already filed and received a refund because of this case. They had to provide a copy of the case, proof of employment, proof of enrollment, a copy of an allotment deed where they reside they reside. Their accountants used Murphy Case as evidence that they work for the Tribe and live on a "reservation". And how about our schools on "reservarion" land? They should be getting more Federal funding.

    • Jessica McBride@Karen
      March 26, 2018, 10:19 am

      Most of the civil effects of this case are still unknown. This is a criminal case and not a civil case, so there could be several more court cases to follow involving taxes and other daily life issues. Prior to this case, if you were Native American, worked for your tribe and lived on your original allotment, you could receive a discount on state income taxes. We are unaware if accountants are changing the way they file taxes for their clients based upon this case.

      Currently, the outcome of this case is on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear the case. That means the law stays the same for now. If they decide to hear it, the effects will remain on hold. If they decline, then changes in the criminal law will occur but it is unknown at this time what civil implications could occur and what the time frame would be for any of those changes.

  • […] U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief with the Supreme Court, agreeing with the State of […]