WASHINGTON – Oral arguments were held April 27 at the United States Supreme Court for Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. Victor Castro-Huerta is a non-Indian who was tried in the state court upon which he received a state conviction of child neglect and a 35-year prison sentence. The crimes committed were against a minor enrolled in a federally-recognized tribe inside of the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation had the following statement:
“Today’s arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court shed light on the misleading arguments and gross exaggerations in the State of Oklahoma’s case to expand its jurisdiction. It is long past time for the State to focus on reality and cease the costly, distracting litigation that rides on these fictions.
The State is overdue to begin working in earnest – as do other entities – with us and other sovereign tribal nations to protect public safety and ensure justice is served for all.
We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will continue steadfast in its Constitutional role to interpret the law, not legislate. And, we look forward to working with Congress to align public-safety funding to reflect the redistribution of caseloads away from the State to federal and tribal governments – as we continue to make our own significant investments in capacity and resources.”
SCOTUS heard arguments from the state of Oklahoma and tribal nations residing within the state on whether the state can prosecute non-Indians for crimes involving Indians in Indian Country.
Oklahoma Attorney General also released a statement following oral arguments:
“Today, the State of Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to confirm that the State has the authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in eastern Oklahoma, which is now the expanded Indian country under the McGirt decision. The State has been prosecuting such criminals since 1907.
Right now, we have two sets of rules when Indians are victimized, those that apply when perpetrator is non-Indian and a different set of rules when the perpetrator is Indian. On the ground in eastern Oklahoma, we have victims without justice and crimes without punishments.
The federal government is leaving thousands of tribal victims of crime in eastern Oklahoma without justice, and as many criminals unprosecuted and free to victimize others around the State. This has dramatically damaged public safety in eastern Oklahoma.
Clearly, a win for Oklahoma in this case is a win for these Native American victims.
No matter the outcome, I will continue to reach out to the leaders of the Indian nations to engage in constructive conversations seeking resolutions that will benefit all Oklahomans.
I want to thank our outside counsel Kannon Shanmugam, Oklahoma Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani, and the entire team of attorneys representing Oklahoma for their countless hours of preparation and hard work. I am grateful for the support of Oklahoma sheriffs, chiefs of police, district attorneys, the City of Tulsa, business groups like the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association, and Petroleum Alliance, and states like Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Virginia, all of whom filed briefs in support of State criminal jurisdiction in eastern Oklahoma.”
The Castro-Huerta arguments come less than two years after the landmark decision made by SCOTUS reaffirming reservation status for MCN that has since expanded to other tribal nations, including Cherokee Nation. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has been publicly vocal about his opposition to the decision.
News reports from the nation’s capital expect a decision by the end of June.