Inmates with tribal ties seek to join suit against Tulsa

Inmates with tribal ties seek to join suit against Tulsa

Inmates with tribal ties seek to join suit against Tulsa

Nearly a dozen inmates have tried to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by the Muscogee Nation against the city of Tulsa over who has criminal jurisdiction over tribal members when it comes to traffic tickets and similar municipal citations.

The inmates, 10 so far, all claim in filings this month that they are tribal members who have an interest in the outcome of the case.

All of those pleas come from the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, 150 miles west of Tulsa, including Brian Patterson’s.

Since 2015, Patterson has been serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole related to a robbery in Tulsa County.

In a handwritten statement, Patterson indicated that he is a Cherokee Nation member who was convicted of crimes on the Muscogee Nation reservation in the city of Tulsa “and the outcome of this matter will profoundly affect Patterson’s ability to vote and other civil liberties.”

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Most of the other nine inmates’ requests use the same language in their motions.

The city of Tulsa responded to requests, including Patterson’s, by essentially saying the judge assigned to the case should wait until a pending state appeal involving Gov. Kevin Stitt’s brother in a similar case is decided. before ruling on the requests for intervention.

The city points out in its responses that many inmates seeking to intervene have already had challenges thrown out in other courts because their cases were brought after their convictions became final.

“This case is not an appropriate mechanism for challenging the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and Mr. Patterson is simply seeking resolution of this Court’s and prior State Court decisions,” the city wrote in its response to Patterson’s filing .

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the exemption does not apply in post-conviction appeals that rely on the Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt decision regarding the continued existence of the Muscogee Nation.

The motions to intervene follow the filing by the Muscogee Nation of a civil lawsuit against the city of Tulsa on Nov. 15 in federal court in Tulsa, seeking an injunction barring the city of Tulsa from enforcing its municipal ordinances on tribal citizens.

The nation is seeking a declaration that the city of Tulsa lacks criminal jurisdiction to prosecute tribal citizens in light of the US Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt decision.

The 10 inmates are joining the U.S. Department of Justice in trying to intervene in the Muscogee Nation’s lawsuit against the city of Tulsa.

The DOJ, acting on behalf of the Department of the Interior, filed papers May 13 in the federal court case seeking to intervene in the Nation’s lawsuit. The Muscogee Nation welcomed the request, while the city opposed it.

The city of Tulsa, in a May 20 response to the DOJ’s motion, asked that the matter not be settled until the judge responds to the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The city also offered the option to stay the case until the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rules on a case involving the governor’s brother, Keith.

Keith Stitt challenges the city’s authority to cite him for a traffic violation in light of his status as a tribal member.

“Because a decision in this case would interfere with OCCA decisions in pending cases involving the United States, MCN (Muscogee Nation) and the City, this case should be dismissed and the motion to intervene should be argued.”

In its original filing, the Muscogee Nation is asking a judge to order the city to stop enforcing the laws against tribal citizens in Indian Country.

“The ongoing criminal proceedings against the Tulsa Indians for conduct on the Creek Reservation are causing irreparable harm to the Nation by interfering with its sovereignty and undermining the authority of its own criminal justice system, including the authority of its Attorney General, the Lighthorse Police and the courts . under the laws of the nation, criminal offenses committed by Indians on its reservation,” the tribe said in its original complaint.

A federal appeals court in June 2023 ruled that the city of Tulsa could not rely on the Curtis Act, a 19th-century law, to give it criminal jurisdiction over tribal citizens on a reservation.

In addition to Keith Stitt’s case, the city of Tulsa said there are several other cases pending that address the same jurisdictional issue.

The city of Tulsa said there is another case similar to Keith Stitt’s pending before OCCA. Another case involving a tribal member trespassing on land owned by a non-tribal person is pending in municipal court, but the person who challenged the city’s jurisdiction was issued an arrest warrant after failing to appear at a court hearing.

City officials argued that another U.S. Supreme Court case involving tribal jurisdiction, Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, opened the door for states and municipalities in some cases to be able to prosecute tribal members for crimes committed on tribal land.

Official attorneys for the Muscogee Nation say states and municipalities do not have criminal jurisdiction over tribal members who do not have statutory authorization, which they do not have in this case.

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