McGirt v. Oklahoma

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
  • Date Filed: December 13, 2019
  • Case #: 18-9526
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, PC-2018-1057, unpublished.
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Oklahoma courts can continue to unlawfully exercise, under state law, criminal jurisdiction as “justiciable matter” in Indian country over Indians accused of major crimes enumerated under the Indian Major Crimes Act—which are under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

In 1997, petitioner was convicted of first-degree rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy. Petitioner filed for appeal, post-conviction relief, and habeas corpus, all of which were either denied or dismissed. After the district court denied his most recent application for post-conviction relief, Petitioner then filed for appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”), arguing the invalidity of the county’s jurisdiction to impose sentences “with a single proposing.” The court dismissed the petition due to a similarly argued case, Murphy v. Royal, 875 F. 3d 896 (10th Cir. 2017), which was under review by the Supreme Court of the United States. Petitioner claims the court erred in dismissing the application, stating that the court improperly dismissed the Murphy decision and erred by ruling without a hearing on his six issues of fact about lack of jurisdiction. The Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. Petitioner, pro se, argues that he is a member of Seminole/Creek, the alleged crimes were in Indian Country within federally recognized reservation boundaries, and the alleged crimes are enumerated within the Indian Major Crimes Act (“IMCA”), under exclusive federal jurisdiction. Petitioner states that because the Oklahoma courts lack subject matter jurisdiction, his state convictions are void ab initio and must be dismissed. Petitioner reasons that the definition of Indian country was broadened to include both formal and informal reservations and all lands within the boundaries of a reservation regardless of ownership. Petitioner also urges that states have no authority over Indians in Indian country unless it is expressly conferred by Congress.

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