The Supreme Court on Wednesday authorized Oklahoma to settle certain crimes committed against Native Americans.
Judge Neil Gorsuch criticized the ruling, saying it was “not” to “keep the promises of this nation”.
A 2020 ruling said only tribal and federal authorities could prosecute crimes in the jurisdiction.
Judge Neil Gorsuch on Wednesday criticized the Supreme Court for giving states more power over Native American lands, saying the ruling “didn’t deliver on this nation’s promises.”
The nation’s highest court delivered a victory over state authorities, declaring Oklahoma officials had jurisdiction over crimes involving non-Native Americans on Native American soil.
The 5-4 majority opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was voiced by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett. Gorsuch and the three liberal judges on the court — Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — disagreed.
“Truly, a more ahistorical and erroneous explanation of Indian law would be hard to fathom,” Gorsuch wrote in a fervent dissent.
Wednesday’s ruling restricts a Supreme Court decision from two years ago that said much of eastern Oklahoma was considered Native American reservations, meaning only tribal and federal authorities — not state officials — could handle criminal charges against that land.
Gorsuch was the author of that 2020 ruling, and the liberal wing of the court then also joined him, forming the majority at the time. But now the court has an extended Conservative majority of 6-3. Gorsuch, who is from Colorado, he believes has a track record of championing tribal rights.
“You can only hope that the political departments and future courts will do their duty to deliver on this nation’s promises, even if we haven’t made ours today,” Gorsuch wrote in his dissenting opinion.
The case, known as Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, involved Victor Castro-Huerta, a non-Native American convicted by state authorities for neglecting his 5-year-old stepdaughter, a Native American, on the territory of the Cherokee Nation. . An Oklahoma court of appeals overturned his conviction following the 2020 Supreme Court ruling. Federal authorities then intervened and charged Castro-Huerta, who pleaded guilty. He has not been convicted.
State Republican Governor Kevin Stitt celebrated Wednesday’s ruling as a “clear victory for all four million Oklahoma people, the state of Oklahoma and the rule of law.”
“Justice has been delayed and denied to thousands of Native victims in our state for no reason other than their race. Now Oklahoma law enforcement can help enforce and enforce the law, as we have done for more than a century,” he said in a statement. pronunciation.
The chief of the Cherokee Nation said on Wednesday he was “disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The dissent today didn’t mince words — the Court failed in its duty to honor this country’s promises, defied Congressional statutes and accepted the ‘legal contempt of Cherokee sovereignty,'” Cherokee said. Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement.
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