Justices hear oral arguments for Carpenter v. Murphy
WASHINGTON — The death row appeal turned boundary case potentially affecting the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Jurisdiction, Carpenter v. Murphy, was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, for oral arguments on Nov. 27 at approximately 11:15 a.m. Following those arguments, a 78-page transcript was published at www.supremecourt.gov.
According to the Supreme Court’s website, Justice Gorsuch took no part in the argument proceedings as he was a member of the 10th-circuit court of appeals when the case was being appealed. Carpenter v. Murphy was formerly known as Royal v. Murphy while the case made it’s way through the appeals process.
The case has raised the question of whether or not Congress disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation. Arguments in the amicus briefs filed in the case focused on clear intent of Congress.
While six briefs were filed in the case leading up to oral arguments, only two parties in support of the Petitioner Mike Carpenter and two parties for Respondent Patrick Murphy were able to address the Court in oral arguments to support that question.
Appearing before the court supporting the petitioner was Lisa S. Blatt and Deputy Solicitor General of the Department of Justice of the United States, Edwin S. Kneedler, amicus curiae of the petitioner.
Appearing before the court supporting the respondent was Ian H. Gershengorn, and Riyaz A. Kanji, for the MCN, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent.
Blatt opened oral arguments attempting to support her argument that upon statehood the reservation was disestablished. She cited the Solem v. Barlett is ‘not to the contrary,’ and ‘affirmance would immediately trigger a seismic shift in criminal and civil jurisdiction.’
Blatt requested to reserve the remainder her argument time and was followed by Edwin Kneedler.
Kneedler’s argument focused on the territory domain and vested authority.
‘Congress, as it always does in transforming a territory to a state, changed the territorial domain from here the tribes to the state,’ Kneedler stated.
Gershengorn, who focused on clear language that would have disestablished the reservation, followed Kneedler’s argument.
‘So, in 1901, Congress initially sought cession, and when the Creeks refused to cede their land to the United States, Congress instead enacted text that instead went for only allotment,’ Gershengorn stated.
He went on to point out Congress could have authorized disestablishment again in 1906, but that it enacted text that preserved the tribal government.
Kanji followed Kneedler’s arguments. He concentrated on the fact that affirmance of the court’s decision would not create chaos. He also argued the constraints of governmental powers and contemporary understanding of reservation status.
Kanji pointed out many cities existing within reservation boundaries and how more chaos would result in the disestablishment of the reservation than the affirmation of its existence.
Kanji also cited instances in which Congress made efforts to equalize allotments, but the efforts were contingent upon the ‘approval by the Creek national legislature.’
‘But the Creek legislature had the authority to say no to Congress,’ the Kanji stated.
The arguments lasted just over an hour.
According to MCN Attorney General Kevin Dellinger, the tribe stood before the Supreme Court to defend the sovereignty and to reaffirm the reservation boundaries as established in the 1866 treaty.
“The 10th Circuit agreed with our position in its 2017 decision, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will find likewise so we can continue in our efforts to enhance the quality of life for everyone within the reservation and the state of Oklahoma at large,” Dellinger said.
The transcript published on the U.S. Supreme Court website is not yet official and is still subject to review. Later in the week, an audio of the proceedings will be released.
It is unclear exactly when the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on Carpenter v. Murphy.
Mvskoke media will continue to monitor the case for updates and provide more information as it becomes available.