In Oklahoma, The McGirt Fiasco Continues: Tenth Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules On A Tulsa Speeding Ticket
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In 2020, the Supreme Court handed down an extremely misguided decision, McGirt v. Oklahoma, which wound up having over 40% of the state’s territory being considered Indian reservation land.  (For more information, see my McGirt file here.)

It’s absolutely ridiculous to consider Tulsa, Oklahoma, as Indian reservation land. And now, the Tenth Circuit has ruled that the city of Tulsa can’t issue speeding tickets to tribal members in the city of Tulsa. 


DENVER, Colo. (KFOR)—The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday [June 28] reversed a decision by a lower district court on the City of Tulsa’s jurisdiction over Natives in Indian Country.   Justin Hooper v. City of Tulsa argues the city’s jurisdiction over tribal citizens while they are within the boundaries of Indian Country.   
[10th Circuit reverses lower court’s decision on traffic ticket jurisdiction case, Kaylee Douglas, KFOR, June 28, 2023]

This case was over a speeding ticket.  

Hooper, a member of the Choctaw Nation, received a speeding ticket in 2018 from the City of Tulsa while on the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation.

The Choctaw tribe is located in southeast Oklahoma.  In 2018, Hooper was driving in Tulsa, which is supposedly now divided between the Creek reservation and the Cherokee reservation. 

He [Hooper] was found guilty and paid the fine. However, he filed for postconviction relief in 2020, arguing the McGirt ruling determined the city had no authority to give him the ticket.

So after Hooper, or his lawyer, heard about McGirt, this was filed:

The City of Tulsa argued Section 14 of the Curtis Act allows them such authority.

The Curtis Act of 1898 was part of the process of abolishing Indian reservations in Oklahoma,  complete by statehood in 1907.  Now McGirt seeks to revive the reservations. 

A municipal court agreed with Tulsa and denied Mr. Hooper’s application.

Hooper then sought an appeal in federal court and Tulsa filed a motion to dismiss that appeal.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed Hooper’s appeal as moot.

Hooper once again appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court.

Today, that court made its ruling.

“Mr. Hooper does not dispute that Section 14 provided Tulsa with jurisdiction over municipal violations committed by all its inhabitants, including Indians, at the time it was enacted, as Tulsa was a municipality in the Indian Territory, authorized and organized according to chapter twenty-nine of Mansfield’s Digest,” the circuit court analysis reads. “Rather, Mr. Hooper argues that once Tulsa reorganized under Oklahoma law, Section 14 no longer applied to the city. We agree.”

The circuit court determined that because Section 14 of the Curtis Act no longer applies to Tulsa, the district court erred in granting Tulsa’s motion to dismiss.

As such, the court reversed the district court’s decision, vacated the court’s dismissal of Hooper’s appeal and directed the district court to dismiss his appeal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction so the case can be remanded for proceedings consistent with the 10th circuit opinion.

Oklahoma’s Governor Stitt, a member of the Cherokee Nation himself though mostly white, understands that McGirt v. Oklahoma was a bad precedent and has constantly opposed it.  Stitt’s statement on the Tenth Circuit ruling:

I am extremely disappointed and disheartened by the decision made by the Tenth Circuit to undermine the City of Tulsa and the impact it would have on their ability to enforce laws within their municipality. However, I am not surprised as this is exactly what I have been warning Oklahomans about for the past three years. Citizens of Tulsa, if your city government cannot enforce something as simple as a traffic violation, there will be no rule of law in eastern Oklahoma. This is just the beginning. It is plain and simple, there cannot be a different set of rules for people solely based on race. I am hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will rectify this injustice, and the City of Tulsa can rest assured my office will continue to support them as we fight for equality for all Oklahomans, regardless of race or heritage.


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