New Oklahoma Attorney General Asks US Supreme Court To Overturn Or Narrow McGirt Decision

Aug 6, 2021

Credit Joe Ravi / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The state's new attorney general has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the ruling that held Oklahoma for more than a century wrongfully claimed jurisdiction over crimes within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation.

Attorney General John O'Connor, who took office two weeks ago, is calling the court's July 2020 ruling "recklessly overbroad," says crime victims are being revictimized going through the legal process a second time, and says tribes and the state don't agree on a path forward.

"Some theories sound good in concept but don’t work in the real world. The U.S. Supreme Court got this decision wrong and we are respectfully asking the Court to overturn its decision or to limit it to certain federal crimes," O'Connor said in a statement. "The most effective way to right this terrible wrong is for the court to overturn the McGirt decision. Without action, the negative consequences will damage Oklahomans for years to come."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in McGirt v. Oklahoma, with the opinion written by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The petition O'Connor is filing is in the case of Shaun Bosse, a white man convicted in state court of murdering a Chickasaw woman and her two children. The state's top criminal court found the state could not prosecute him, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in May to review questions about the case.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has opposed the McGirt ruling from the beginning, chose O'Connor to replace former Attorney General Mike Hunter after he resigned. O'Connor said in late July ahead of his swearing-in he would push the supreme court to overturn both McGirt v. Oklahoma and Roe v. Wade.

O'Connor's petition also asks for the high court to narrow last year's ruling so it does not apply to people convicted of violent felonies before it was made.

In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said tribes have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies over the past year and that O'Connor and Stitt are "advancing an anti-Indian agenda."

"The governor has never attempted to cooperate with the tribes to protect all Oklahomans. It is perfectly clear that it has always been his attempt to destroy Oklahoma's reservations and the sovereignty of Oklahoma tribes, no matter what the cost might be," Hoskin said in a statement.

The Muscogee Nation has not responded to a request for comment.