Gov. Stitt Expresses Concerns Over Court Cases Questioning State Laws for Tribal Citizens

Governor Kevin Stitt is voicing his concerns over two court cases that question whether state laws apply to tribal citizens.

Thursday, July 20th 2023, 6:14 pm



Governor Kevin Stitt is voicing his concerns over two court cases that question whether state laws apply to tribal citizens.

“In America we expect that everybody follows the same set of rules, regardless of who you are or where you come from. But the 10th circuit court of appeals decided in Hooper vs Tulsa that isn't the case,” said Governor Stitt.

That’s an excerpt from a video shared across Governor Stitt’s social media. He’s talking about his concerns for law enforcement, after a decision regarding Tulsa’s jurisdiction regarding a tribal citizen.

In 2018, Justin Hooper got a $150 speeding ticket from Tulsa police. After the McGirt decision in 2020, Hooper appealed his fine, claiming that Tulsa lacked jurisdiction because he was a tribal member.

The case went to the federal court, who sided with the city of Tulsa.

But, last month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Justin Hooper, saying Tulsa lacked jurisdiction over Native Americans because Tulsa also falls within tribal boundaries.

“We have a system of justice that the Tulsa Police Department cannot write a speeding ticket. That's a problem,” said Governor Stitt in an interview with News 9.

In a statement, Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said: “The Hooper decision does not exempt anyone from the law, it merely clarifies jurisdiction issues involving Native Americans on reservations established by Congress.” 

Now, another case is headed to the State Supreme Court. Alicia Stroble, a Tulsa resident, is saying she doesn’t have to pay the state income tax because she’s a tribal citizen.

Stroble’s attorney told News On 6, the back and forth has to do with the legal definition of "Indian Country" for income tax law.

“You can't have a situation where one neighbor pays state income tax and the other neighbor doesn't,” said Stitt. 

Multiple tribes have signed an Amicus brief, or letter sent to the Supreme Court, backing Stroble in the case.

The brief says in part, “The Nations’ exercise of sovereignty on their Reservations is good for Oklahoma. It improves the quality of life on their Reservations while reducing demands on state and local governments’ budgets” 

Stitt says he’s hopeful the Supreme Court will take a hard look at both of these cases.

“I’m just trying to protect Oklahomans,” said Stitt. “I would not be doing my job unless I shared that with the Oklahoma citizens.” 

Full statement from Chief Batton: 

“Once again, Gov. Stitt is misrepresenting the facts. The Hooper decision does not exempt anyone from the law, it merely clarifies jurisdiction issues involving Native Americans on reservations established by Congress,” Batton said. “Since 2020, the Choctaw Nation has filed more than 3,500 cases in our courts, hired 150 new workers in our legal system, added 47 new police officers and investigators and established a public defender’s office. We are committed to enforcing the law and protecting our communities.”
“It is especially troubling Gov. Stitt chose to use state employees in his video about this issue, taking law enforcement officers away from their jobs and turning them into political actors,” Batton said.
“In short, we urge the governor to return to the state’s history of cooperation with tribes, rather than sowing division and discord,” Batton said.

The Senate is expected to be back at the Capitol Monday morning to vote to override the governor’s veto of a tribal compact bill. They will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday morning.

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