Things That Matter

The Supreme Court Issued A Landmark Decision Confirming That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land

The 2020 Supreme Court season will be one for the record books, as the court handed down several major decisions that impacted the lives of millions of Americans.

From outlawing discrimination in the workplace against LGBTQ people to allowing religious employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives, it’s been a very consequential Supreme Court season. Now, the court has handed down one of the most important decisions affecting Native American tribes in generations.

The Supreme Court says that the eastern half of Oklahoma is Native American land.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a major ruling that declared a huge swath of Oklahoma as Native American land for certain legal purposes. The ruling affects about half the state and will have major consequences for both past and future criminal and civil cases.

The court’s decision hinged on the question of whether the Creek reservation continued to exist after Oklahoma became a state.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of fed­eral criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision was 5-4, with Justices Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in the majority, while Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented

The decision means that only federal authorities, no longer state prosecutors, can lodge charges against Native Americans who commit serious alleged crimes on that land, which is home to 1.8 million people. Of those people, 15% or fewer are Native Americans.

Ruling that these lands are in fact reservations doesn’t mean the tribe owns all the land within the reservation, just like the county doesn’t own all the land within the county. In fact, it probably doesn’t own very much of that land, according to several legal experts.

The ruling will have significant legal implications for eastern Oklahoma.

Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

There will be several implications based on the Supreme Court’s decision. First of all, certain major crimes committed within the boundaries of reservations must be prosecuted in federal courts rather than by state courts, if a Native American tribe member is involved.

For example, if a Native American is accused of a major crime in downtown Tulsa, the federal government rather than the state government will prosecute it. Less serious crimes involving Native Americans on American Indian land will be handled in tribal courts. This arrangement is already common in Western states like Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.

The ruling will also affect past decisions – many of which are now considered wrongful conditions because the state lacked jurisdiction. A number of criminal defendants who have been convicted in the past will now have grounds to challenge their convictions, arguing that the state never had jurisdiction to try them.

The decision is a major win for Native Americans, but so much more work needs to be done.

“The Supreme Court today kept the United States’ sacred promise to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of a protected reservation,” the tribe said in a statement. “Today’s decision will allow the Nation to honor our ancestors by maintaining our established sovereignty and territorial boundaries.”

The same day that the court issued its landmark Oklahoma decision, a federal judge also ordered that oil must stop flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois. The deadline is August 5.

Of course, these are major legal victories. But taken together, they only highlight the ongoing legal issues and discrimination that Native American tribes face. To realize a complete vision of Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice takes people power — the kind that energized the 2016 Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline but that in fact goes back much further.

In 2007, the International Indian Treaty Council, alongside other international Indigenous organizations, helped draft the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although imperfect — declarations are, after all, aspirational and nonbinding — the declaration provides a universal mechanism for free, prior and informed consent with Indigenous nations over the decision-making process of development projects.

A major win for Native American tribes in the United States would hinge on Indigenous authority over lands that they control and landscapes that they have historic and cultural ties to.

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Conservative Cuban-American Federal Judge Tops Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee List

Things That Matter

Conservative Cuban-American Federal Judge Tops Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee List

Supreme Court of Florida / Public Domain

Conservative Cuban judge Barbara Lagoa is said to be towards the top of President Donald Trump’s list of Supreme Court picks. If announced, Lagoa will then undergo a confirmation hearing to fill the seat vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

President Trump is reportedly considering two very conservative women to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s empty seat on the Supreme Court.

Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American federal judge, is one of the women President Trump is seriously considering for the Supreme Court nomination. Critics state that President Trump is trying to stack the court to rule conservatively for decades to come. Lagoa was the first Latina to be appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Politicians and political pundits are calling on the Senate to follow precedent they set in 2016. During President Obama’s last year in office, the Republican-led Senate refused to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court following the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in March. The argument was that the American people should have the right to decide who fills the seat since it is an election year. In 2020, the same Senate is committing to rushing a hearing as soon as possible.

Lagoa made a name for herself when she worked to fight Elián González’s deportation.

Lagoa, who currently serves on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, worked behind the scenes. Her role in the González fight was in making the argument against the Bill Clinton administration. The judge, like most Cuban-Americans at the time, was desperate to keep González in the U.S. having witnessed the trauma of the Cuban exile diaspora in Miami.

Her position on abortion is up for debate right now.

Lagoa hasn’t had to weigh in on the heavier issues because of her previous positions so it isn’t clear how she’ll rule on abortion matters. However, in her confirmation hearing last year for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Lagoa answered question about Roe v Wade.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California asked Lagoa about the decision and how she would follow it.

“Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is binding precedent of the Supreme Court and I would faithfully follow it as I would follow all precedent of the Supreme Court regardless of whether it is referred to as ‘super-stare decisis’ or ‘superprecedent,'” Lago wrote in response.

Lagoa did vote to make access voting harder for felons in Florida despite the people voting in 2018.

Lagoa was one of the voting members in the 6-4 ruling of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that created voting restrictions for felons. The decision was a key legal victory for the Trump administration and Republicans. Lagoa’s vote made it so that felons could only restore their voting rights if they pay their fees and fines, which the state of Florida is not responsible for telling or showing them how to pay them off.

President Trump is expected to make an announcement soon about who he is going to be nominating to the Supreme Court. A political battle is already brewing as both sides of the aisle fight for the seat.

READ: Latino Politicians And Celebrities Mourn The Death Of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Crowd Boos President Trump As She Visits Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Casket At Supreme Court

Things That Matter

Crowd Boos President Trump As She Visits Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Casket At Supreme Court

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President and Melania Trump visited the Supreme Court to pay respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As the president and first lady stood by the casket, protesters could be heard booing and chanting against the president.

President Donald Trump visited Ruth Bader Ginsburg casket at the Supreme Court and things got loud.

A crowd of people gathered in front of the Supreme COurt booed the president as he stood behind the casket. The boos turned to chants of “vote him out” that grew louder until the president left the scene. Some were also heard chating “honor her wish” in memory of Justice Ginsburg’s wish not to be replaced until a new president is elected.

Justice Ginsburg’s death has electrified the political debate dividing the nation.

Justice Ginsburg was a pop culture icon who was beloved by the American people. She stood for progress and advancing the civil rights of all communities. Her death has mobilized Democrats with record-breaking donations to Democrats in the days following her death.

President Trump has announced that he is going to be announcing a nominee to fill the seat as soon as possible.

President Trump is bulldozing ahead by announcing that he would pick a nominee four days after Justice Ginsburg’s death. Democratic and some Republican lawmakers have called on the Senate to reconsider voting for a nominee before the election.

Political pundits are resurfacing videos of Republican Senators in 2016 denying President Obama’s Supreme Court because it was an election year. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, was the one in 2016 to deny the Obama administration a Supreme Court pick citing the election year. In 2020, the Republican-led Senate has changed the rules.

Some politicians, like Senator Lindsey Graham, are facing backlash because of their flip-flopping.

Senator Graham is the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and will be running the confirmation hearing of the next Supreme Court nominee. Sen. Graham is facing a very tight race for re-election in South Carolina against Jaime Harrison. Sen. Graham’s seat, which is a Republican stronghold, is in jeopardy as Harrison continues his campaign.

Republicans and Democrats are both watching the Senate closely to see what will happen.

The Supreme Court vacancy has become a flashpoint in the 2020 election cycle. Both parties are fundraising on the issue of changing the court for decades to come.

READ: Latino Politicians And Celebrities Mourn The Death Of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com