Gorsuch fumes that the Supreme Court ‘failed’ to ‘honor this Nation’s promises’ as it rolled back tribal authority in Oklahoma


Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is seen in the House chamber during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is seen in the House chamber during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018.Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

  • The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Oklahoma can have jurisdiction in Native American land.

  • Justice Neil Gorsuch blasted the ruling, saying it “failed” to “honor this Nation’s promises.”

  • A 2020 ruling previously said only tribal and federal authorities can prosecute crimes in the jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch blasted the Supreme Court in a dissenting opinion on Wednesday, saying it “failed” to “honor this Nation’s promises” as it rolled back tribal authority in Oklahoma.

The nation’s highest court ruled in the case Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta that state authorities can retain jurisdiction over crimes taking place in Native American territory involving non-native citizens.

Gorsuch joined the three liberal justices to oppose the decision, writing a fiery dissent.

“Now, at the bidding of Oklahoma’s executive branch, this Court unravels those lower-court decisions, defies Congress’s statutes requiring tribal consent, offers its own consent in place of the Tribe’s, and allows Oklahoma to intrude on a feature of tribal sovereignty recognized since the founding,” Gorsuch wrote in his dissent.

He continued: “One can only hope the political branches and future courts will do their duty to honor this Nation’s promises even as we have failed today to do our own.”

Wednesday’s ruling is a step back from a previous ruling in 2020 that declared a large chunk of territory in eastern Oklahoma as Native American tribal land under the Major Crimes Act. This meant that only tribal and federal authorities — not state — can prosecute crimes in the jurisdiction.

In a statement, the Cherokee Nation’s Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he was “disappointed” in Wednesday’s ruling.

“It does not diminish our commitment to meeting our public safety responsibilities and to protecting Oklahomans on our reservations and across the state. Tribal and federal jurisdiction remain unchanged by this decision, but the need to work together on behalf of Oklahomans has never been more clear,” he said.

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