September 11, 2020

McGirt v. Oklahoma

Petitioner Jimcy McGirt, is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. In 1997, Mr. McGirt was convicted in state court of rape and other sex crimes on what may be considered a Creek reservation in Oklahoma. In state court, he was sentenced for what added up to a life term in prison and two 500-year terms in prison. Mr. McGirt, who is now about 71 years old, challenges the jurisdiction, or the authority, of the state court to prosecute his crimes. The case is influenced by Carpenter v. Murphy (2017), where the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Congress never disestablished the Creek reservation. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Murphy in 2018 but did not issue a decision in the case.

Significance of the Case

In this case, the Court is being asked to consider issues that could affect more land than the specific Creek Nation land and more people than the single petitioner (Mr. McGirt). This is often the situation when cases make their way to the Supreme Court. The Court has to consider how its ruling on one seemingly specific case will affect the country and future cases to come.32w3

While both sides in this case have alluded to a modern, positive ongoing relationship between the Creek Nation and the state of Oklahoma in many civil matters, there are unresolved issues from a long and challenging history between the Creek Nation, Oklahoma, and the U.S. government. The Creek Nation does not want to give up its sovereign power as a tribal nation to the state of Oklahoma by allowing the state to have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians against Indians on what it considers to be Indian lands. The state of Oklahoma is concerned that if the Court rules in favor of the petitioner, and determines the Creek Nation’s land to be an Indian reservation, then the floodgates will open and federal and tribal courts will acquire more criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against any Indians.

Questions before the Court:

  1. Was a Creek reservation established, and if so, was it disestablished either by Congress or in other ways?

  2. If the land is not a reservation, does the state have jurisdiction over a crime committed there?

 Classroom Case Study

This classroom case study provides:

  • background on the legal issues in the case;
  • facts of the case;
  • key legal definitions;
  • argument summaries for petitioner, respondent, and amici curiae; and
  • focus questions for fostering classroom discussion

Download  Classroom Case Study>>

The classroom case study was modified from PREVIEW of United States Supreme Court Cases. It can be used for teacher reference and provides a more detailed look at the case.

Download Preview Article>>