Oklahoma paying out-of-state law firm in McGirt fight | Tribal News

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Oklahoma is paying more than a half-million dollars to a Washington, D.C.-based law firm in its fight to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt.

The Washington D.C. based law firm was hired in July to represent the state in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Oklahoma vs. Bosse.

Bosse, who is not a Native American, was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murder of Katrina Griffin and her two children in McClain County. Griffin and her children were members of the Chickasaw Nation.

The state hired Kannon Shanmugam and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to assist in providing legal representation to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt.

“Shanmugam is one of the nation’s most renowned appellate litigators, having argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court,” the AG’s office said in a press release.

In response to a request from the News-Capital under the Oklahoma Open Record Act, the AG’s office provided a copy of the contract signed with the law firm.

“Law firm shall provide representation to the state of Oklahoma, including its agencies, boards, and commissions, in all necessary efforts to investigate, defend, and litigate legal claims related to the McGirt decision,” the contract states.

According to the contract, the law firm is providing a 50% discount “of the lowest hourly rates charged by law firm for the services of the professionals performing the services.”

The contract specifies the state will be billed to the nearest 1/10 of an hour at a rate of $912 per hour for Shanmugam, $580 for attorney William Marks, and $175 an hour for a paralegal with total services to not exceed $700,000.

A blanket consent was officially filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 17 stating the state consents to the filing by the law firm “of any and all briefs of amici, whether in support of either or neither party, at the certiorari stage.”

Alex Gerszewski, communications director for the AG’s Office, told the News-Capital he could not say where the funds to pay the law firm will come from since the state has not been billed for the services yet.

Bosse’s death sentence was overturned after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to apply the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma to the Chickasaw Nation, meaning the case fell under federal jurisdiction as per the 1885 Major Crimes Act, which gives the federal government exclusive prosecutorial power in cases involving Native Americans defendants and victims within tribal lands.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Appeals Court decision reversing Bosse’s conviction and gave the state until Sept. 9 to file a writ of certiorari in the case.

“Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically,” states a Supreme Court order.

“In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the mandate of this court.”

Attorney General John O’Connor said the McGirt decision was “recklessly overbroad” and the decision is throwing Oklahomans into danger of having no law enforcement respond to a call for help.

“The U.S. Supreme Court got this decision wrong, and we are respectfully asking the Court to overturn its decision or to limit it to certain federal crimes,” O’Conner said.

If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the state is asking for three questions to be answered:

1. Whether a State may impose procedural or equitable bars to postconviction relief on the claim that the State lacked prosecutorial authority because the crime of conviction occurred in Indian country.

2. Whether a State has authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in Indian country.

3. Whether McGirt v. Oklahoma should be overruled.

The United States and the Cherokee Nation have both filed motions for leave to file amicus briefs in the case.

Contact Derrick James at [email protected]

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