In the Headlines
December 5, 2018

Tribal Authority Key Issue As Justices Mull Okla. Reservation


Native American Law Partner Philip Baker-Shenk was quoted by Law360 on the U.S. Supreme Court's probe into the potential implications if the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and other Oklahoma tribes are found to have both civil and criminal jurisdiction over much of Eastern Oklahoma. This probe came after Oklahoma state court convicted and sentenced Patrick Dwayne Murphy to death for the alleged murder of another tribal member on a reservation in Carpenter v. Murphy.

Murphy argued the conviction was invalid due to him being Native American and the alleged murder occurred in Indian Country and should have been tried in federal court. Murphy's conviction was later overturned by the Tenth Circuit and has been moved to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Baker-Shenk noted that the justices are concerned on the potential consequences to tribes having criminal jurisdiction and what role the Supreme Court will play in shaping it.

“Clearly some of the justices indicated a desire to distinguish this from [Nebraska v.] Parker because it involves significant questions of public safety, civil liberty and property rights that are exponentially bigger than what were involved in Parker,” Mr. Baker-Shenk added. “It’s a separate question whether that should matter, but the fact is it clearly matters to some of the justices that the ramifications of the case affect more people than did the ramifications of the Parker case.”

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