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Call to Action: We need YOU to sign-on to the NIWRC Amicus Brief in Royal v. Murphy, a case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2018 Term.

Who:  The NIWRC will be seeking the support of amici similar to those who joined the NIWRC on the briefs the NIWRC filed in Dollar General, Bryant, Voisine, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et. al., v. Army Corps of Engineers, et. al. Specifically, the NIWRC will seek signatories from organizations and/or non-profits whose mission is to end or eliminate domestic violence and/or sexual assault. The NIWRC will give special focus to non-Native allies who supported Indian Country in its advocacy for the tribal jurisdiction provision in the 2013 re-authorization of VAWA, but welcomes the signatures of any organization committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault, either within or outside of Indian Country. The NIWRC’s recent amicus briefs have garnered the support of more than 100 signatories each time. The NIWRC has no reason not to expect similar support here.

When:  The filing deadline is September 14, 2018. Consequently, we will need to receive all sign-ons no later than September 4, 2018.

How:  To add your organization’s signature to the brief, please click on this link and fill out the form: https://goo.gl/forms/dzHS77XOlcRpN89A3

Why:  Although the Supreme Court’s analysis will most likely focus on the three-part test set out in Solem to determine whether the Creek Nation’s reservation has been disestablished, the Court’s determination of what gives rise to the disestablishment of a “reservation” under 18 U.S.C. § 1151(a) will have significant implications for Tribal Nations seeking to utilize VAWA § 904’s restored tribal criminal jurisdiction to protect their citizens from non-Indian offenders. That is, the Court’s decision in Murphy could result in a decision that expands or severely limits the restored criminal jurisdiction the area of land over which Tribal Nations may now exercise criminal jurisdiction under VAWA 904. The Supreme Court needs to hear the perspective of organizations and survivors working to end domestic violence and sexual assault against Native women, as the Court’s decision will likely have serious consequences for Tribal Nations seeking to protect their women and children from domestic violence and dating violence on tribal lands. Beyond VAWA, the NIWRC Amicus brief will assert that for tribal citizens, justice over violent crimes is best served in Tribal Court, and ultimately, stripping Tribal Nations of their jurisdiction over crimes committed against their own citizens undermines the safety of all tribal citizens.


Background on Royal v. Murphy

In August 1999, Patrick D. Murphy and his two friends, Billy Long and Kevin King, murdered and mutilated George Jacobs. In 2000, a jury in McIntosh County convicted Murphy of first-degree murder and imposed the death penalty. After two appeals, both denied by the OCCA and a federal district court, Murphy’s third appeal was accepted by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Recently, the Tenth Circuit determined that the Creek Nation’s reservation had never been disestablished, and ultimately, found that the State of Oklahoma was without jurisdiction to criminally prosecute Murphy because his crime was against an Indian victim on tribal trust land within the border of the Creek Nation’s reservation.  

To reach this conclusion, the Tenth Circuit considered whether Congress showed explicit intent or language to disestablish the Muscogee Creeks’ 1886 tribal boundaries through the Creek Allotment Act of 1901 or any later acts related to the Tribe. The Court applied disestablishment criteria under Solem v. Bartlett (1984) and ruled that Congress hasn’t showed explicit intent or language to disestablish the Creek reservation through any Congressional act. The Court’s decision states that “Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction” to prosecute Murphy for a crime that happened in Indian Country – thus overturning his prior conviction and sentence on August 7, 2017. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will review the Murphy case and both parties will argue, once again, if the Creek reservation has been diminished or disestablished in any way.