WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday expanded the power of states over Native American tribes and undermined its own 2020 ruling that expanded Native American tribal authority in Oklahoma and gave a victory to Republican officials in that state.
The court ruled in favor of Oklahoma 5-4 over the state’s attempt to convict Victor Castro-Huerta, a non-Native American, of child neglect in a crime committed against a Native American child – his 5- year-old stepdaughter – committed, to prosecute. Cherokee Nation Discussion.
The change of rate only two years after the previous ruling in a case called McGirt v. Oklahoma was made possible by Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment in court by former Republican President Donald Trump to replace the late Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch, as he did in 2020, joined the court’s liberal bloc in favor of Native American interests, but his vast Conservative majority meant he was in the minority this time.
A state court has rejected Castro-Huerta’s conviction, saying the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McGirt case deprives state authorities of jurisdiction in its case and gives responsibility to federal courts.
As a result of the McGirt ruling, approximately 3,600 cases would fall under federal instead of state jurisdiction each year in Oklahoma.
In the McGirt ruling, the Supreme Court recognized about half of Oklahoma – much of the eastern part of the state – as Native American reservation land outside the jurisdiction of state authorities. That ruling, which has been criticized by Gov. Kevin Stitt and other Republicans, has meant that many crimes on the land in which Native Americans are involved must be prosecuted in tribal or federal courts.
The state is already prosecuting crimes committed in the affected country that do not involve any Native Americans. Tribal courts deal with crimes committed by and against Native Americans.
Tribes welcomed the McGirt ruling in recognition of their sovereignty. In January, the Supreme Court rejected Oklahoma’s request to reverse it completely.
Castro-Huerta was convicted in state court of neglecting his stepdaughter, who is cerebral palsied and legally blind, and sentenced to 35 years in prison. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed that conviction last year because of the 2020 precedent. Castro-Huerta was then already charged with the same underlying offense by federal authorities, transferred to federal custody and pleaded guilty to child neglect.
He has not yet been sentenced.
There are a total of 574 federally recognized tribes, although some states have very little tribal land. The population of Native Americans and Alaska natives living together in the United States is 3.7 million, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.