DENVER, Colorado – The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the City of Tulsa does not have jurisdiction over municipal crimes committed by Native American tribal citizens in the city.
In Hooper v. The City of Tulsa, Choctaw citizen Justin Hooper was issued a traffic citation by the city of Tulsa.
After paying the fine, Hooper disputed whether the Curtis Act gave the city of Tulsa jurisdiction over municipal violations committed by tribal citizens post McGirt.
Hooper filed an application for post-conviction relief in municipal court, which ruled in favor of Tulsa. Hopper then took his case to federal court, appealing his denial of post-conviction relief and seeking a declaratory judgment that section 14 of the Curtis Act is inapplicable to Tulsa today.
The city of Tulsa filed a motion to dismiss the case under federal rules of civil procedure. The district court agreed with Tulsa and dismissed Hooper’s appeal and request for declaratory judgment.
This brought the case to the Tenth Circuit Court. The court found that Section 14 of the Curtis Act gave Tulsa jurisdiction over Native Americans in the city while it was located in Indian Territory, but once Tulsa reorganized under Oklahoma Law in 1908, Section 14 no longer applied.
From the decision the ruling stated the following;
“Mr. Hooper does not dispute that Section 14 provided Tulsa with jurisdiction over municipal violations committed by all its inhabitants, including Indians at the time it was enacted, as Tulsa was a municipality in the Indian Territory, authorized and organized according to chapter twenty-nine of Mansfield’s Digest.12 See Reply at 2. Rather, Mr. Hooper argues that once Tulsa reorganized under Oklahoma law, Section 14 no longer applied to the city. We agree.”
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt released the following statement regarding the court’s ruling;
“I am extremely disappointed and disheartened by the decision made by the Tenth Circuit to undermine the City of Tulsa and the impact it would have on their ability to enforce laws within their municipality. However, I am not surprised as this is exactly what I have been warning Oklahomans about for the past three years. Citizens of Tulsa, if your city government cannot enforce something as simple as a traffic violation, there will be no rule of law in eastern Oklahoma. This is just the beginning. It is plain and simple, there cannot be a different set of rules for people solely based on race. I am hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will rectify this injustice, and the City of Tulsa can rest assured my office will continue to support them as we fight for equality for all Oklahomans, regardless of race or heritage.”
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the tribal jurisdiction Tulsa resides in released the following statement on the ruling;
“We’re pleased to see that the 10th Circuit has applied the correct rule of law concerning the questions before it regarding the Curtis Act. We can now move forward, expand resources and continue to flourish together with our partners rather than wasting anymore time challenging the sovereign rights of tribes.”
The case will now be remanded back to the district court to be reheard in light of the Tenth Circuit opinion.