Jessica McBride/Managing Editor
Counsel filed response in potential Supreme Court case
WASHINGTON — In U.S. Supreme Court documents filed April 9, attorneys for Muscogee (Creek) citizen Patrick Murphy claim the State of Oklahoma has improperly asserted authority over the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation for over a century.
‘And while Oklahoma after statehood indeed asserted absolute criminal and civil jurisdiction, it did so in defiance of Congress’s statutes, in furtherance of one of this country’s most shameful episodes of plunder and exploitation,’ the brief states.
The brief is in response to the State of Oklahoma’s petition to the Supreme Court to review the Royal v. Murphy case.
The landmark case will decide what court has the authority to try Murphy for committing murder within the MCN 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 tribal 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.
‘Disestablishment cases are notoriously fact-specific, and this Court’s most recent application is hot off the presses. Nor is certiorari warranted because the Tenth Circuit has somehow gone rogue,’ Murphy’s attorneys state in the brief.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Oklahoma disagreed in their briefs filed with the Supreme Court.
‘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 DOJ brief states.
Murphy’s attorneys state the Dawes Commission never obtained an agreement to cede land from MCN.
‘But the Creek negotiated to avoid cession, ensuring the entire body of Creek lands would remain intact and (with limited exceptions) be allotted to Creek citizens, and that the 1901 agreement would include no language characteristic of disestablishment, such as “[e]xplicit reference to cession” to the United States, a commitment “to compensate the tribe for its land with a fixed sum,” or language restoring lands to “the public domain,” ’ their brief states.
They state the Supreme Court thus has no reason to review the case and the Tenth Circuit Court decision should stand.
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.