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OIPA supports U.S. Supreme Court petition to reverse Murphy v. Royal

March 09, 2018
On Friday, the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association filed an amicus brief in support of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Murphy v. Royal.

Patrick Murphy, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was charged by the state with murder in the first degree, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death. Murphy successfully argued at the 10th Circuit that because the crime occurred on Indian land, the state had no jurisdiction and that he was now unlawfully detained by the state.

OIPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs A.J. Ferate said the 10th Circuit's decision radically redefines what "Indian land" is in Oklahoma and would have significant ramifications outside of the criminal courts. Based on past Supreme Court precedent, when a territory is designated "Indian country," the tribe generally has authority to regulate commercial conduct in that territory. The court's decision that land within the 1866 boundaries of the Creek Nation is still a reservation would make all lands within the boundaries of the five civilized tribes subject to tribal jurisdiction.

“The economic impact of transforming regulation in Oklahoma would be severe, especially in the oil and natural gas industry,” Ferate said. “An oil or natural gas producer operating in what was previously open land would now be faced with a tribe's claim that those wells lie in tribal lands and any rights the producer holds to the land or production of the oil and natural gas are invalid.”

If the 10th Circuit's decision stands, the entire eastern half of the state would now be treated as a reservation, giving tribes the authority to regulate commercial conduct. If upheld, the court's decision would subject business owners to tribal taxes, exempt tribes and their members from state taxes and subject non-Indians to tribal land-use regulations.

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