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Five additional federal judges requested to handle increased post-McGirt caseload in Oklahoma

United States Courts
The federal courthouse of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee, Okla.

The Judicial Conference of the United States is requesting five additional judges for Oklahoma’s federal court to handle the increased caseload created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma decision last year.

The court found that state courts no longer had jurisdiction to hear some cases in which crimes were committed by or against Native Americans in much of Eastern Oklahoma, and these cases now must be heard in tribal or federal courts.

In the year since the decision, criminal felony cases per judge jumped from 70 to 208 in the Northern District of Oklahoma and from 76 to 277 in the Eastern District.

U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan, chair of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference, says they are handling the backlog from the McGirt decision and the pandemic by prioritizing cases in which the accused has been in jail for the longest time.

District courts plan to send out a national request for federal judges willing to come to Oklahoma temporarily and try cases.

Currently, legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate to expand the judiciary.

Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter
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