Tulsa requests hearing in Hooper case

Aug. 31—The city of Tulsa is asking a federal judge to set a hearing to discuss the continuing litigation in a case involving Tulsa and other cities in eastern Oklahoma being allowed to issue traffic citations to Native Americans.

The case was moved back to the Northern District of Oklahoma after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the district court's ruling in Hooper v. Tulsa.

Tulsa argues the city can still prosecute Native Americans for municipal violations, despite the Supreme Court's ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma. Tulsa claims Section 14 of the Curtis Act, a law from 1898 that predates Oklahoma's statehood, gave the city that authority.

The 10th Circuit ruled the Act only applied to Tulsa prior to Oklahoma's statehood, when the city operated under Arkansas law, and that it "no longer applied" in modern times.

The city is asking a federal judge to set a date for a status conference in the case to allow the parties and the court "to discuss the status of the case and a plan for continuing with the litigation after the opinion and the order of the Tenth Circuit remanding the matter for further proceedings."

The case began after Justin Hooper, a member of the Choctaw Nation, was fined $150 for a traffic violation in 2018 by the Tulsa Police Department. Hooper sought resolution by filing for post-conviction relief following the 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

A majority opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch stated the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was never disestablished and therefore the state of Oklahoma did not have criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by Native Americans.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has since applied the ruling to seven other tribal nations in eastern Oklahoma.

The city argued the Curtis Act gave the city the authority to prosecute municipal violations committed by Native Americans.

A Tulsa municipal judge and a federal judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled against Hooper before the 10th Circuit decided in Hooper's favor and issued a mandate for the lower district court to reverse its judgment.

The 10th Circuit ordered the Northern District of Oklahoma to reconduct a hearing in the case consistent with the court's mandate.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in an August opinion following an appeal from Tulsa that the Appeals Court has, for now, declined to find for an additional argument raised by Oklahoma that Tulsa may exercise concurrent jurisdiction under the ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. That case said the state of Oklahoma shared concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government over non-Native Americans who committed crimes against Natives.

Tulsa argued in its filing with the court the ruling in Castro-Huerta could extend to Native Americans who commit a crime outside of their enrolled tribal nation's boundaries. That was the case with Hooper, a Choctaw tribal member allegedly caught speeding within the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

"On remand in the district court, the city may presumably raise that argument," Kavanaugh wrote. "Moreover, as I understand it, nothing in the decision of the Court of Appeals prohibits the city from continuing to enforce its municipal laws against all persons, including Indians, as the litigation progresses."

A date for the status conference was not set as of Thursday.