US Attorney For Eastern District Of Oklahoma Discusses Implications Of McGirt Case

Sunday, September 20th 2020, 10:16 pm
By: Amelia Mugavero


Courtrooms across Green Country are seeing drastic changes after the Supreme Court's historic McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling.

Hundreds of cases were dismissed in Tulsa as well as seven other counties within the Muscogee Creek Nation as of July.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma Brian Kuester said the changes in these last months are only the beginning.

"Since July 9, which was the day the Supreme Court and their decision on McGirt, my office has been having a great deal of interaction with the district attorneys within the Muscogee Creek Nation reservation as well as identifying cases that they will likely no longer have jurisdiction over," Kuester said. 

The McGirt decision ruled that the Muscogee Creek Nation is an established reservation. Therefore, any major crime involving a tribal member on tribal land falls under federal or tribal jurisdiction.

Kuester said his office is one of the smallest in the nation, and they are having issues keeping up with the amount of cases from the state. 

"We're working hard,” Kuester said. “There are challenges, but I would ask for perhaps a little bit of patience as we move through this.”  

This month, a federal grand jury indicted twice as many cases they would normally see for an entire year. All but three involved violent crimes in Indian country.

"Before McGirt, we may have indicted somewhere between five to 10 defendants a year for violent crimes in Indian country, so now we've clearly eclipsed that and we continue to do that on a monthly basis," Kuester said.  

Kuester sees potential for the other four civilized tribes to also receive reservation status. He also sees issues with statutes of limitations and victims of crimes having to face retrials.

"There's going to be a lot of tough conversations, I believe, with victims who find themselves in those situations," Kuester said. 

Right now, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is reviewing cases that could have a similar impact as McGirt for other tribes.