The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta on Wednesday, April 27. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation submitted an amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – brief alongside the Environmental Federation of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma in support of the state of Oklahoma’s position.
Castro-Huerta stems from the 2020 ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, where the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to prosecute Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, for a crime committed in an area of eastern Oklahoma considered to be a tribal reservation – also known as “Indian country” – under the federal Major Crimes Act. The Court ruled prosecution could only be sought by federal or tribal entities.
In Castro-Huerta, the Supreme Court will consider whether the state has the right to seek prosecution of non-Indians who have committed crimes against Indians on Muscogee Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole or Quapaw reservations in Oklahoma.
The OKFB Legal Foundation and participating organizations urged the Supreme Court to reverse the original decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals stating:
The lower court’s conclusion, that the State lacks concurrent jurisdiction over Mr. Castro-Huerta’s criminal conduct, exacerbates the jurisdictional divestiture McGirt imposed. If its conclusion on this issue stands, only the federal government would have authority to prosecute, not just Major Crimes Act-defined crimes, but essentially all current state law crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in “Indian Country.” By virtue of McGirt and Oklahoma cases extending its holding to all Five Tribes Areas, “Indian country” now encompasses nearly 43% of the State and nearly 2 million non-Indian Oklahomans.
A decision is expected by June 30 unless SCOTUS holds the case for re-argument next term.