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Oklahoma paid outside counsel double the fees for arguing SCOTUS case

The Supreme Court
Mark Sherman
The Supreme Court

Oklahoma paid outside counsel double the amount originally promised as part of the state’s battle against the tribes in the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Bloomberg Law, Oklahoma originally signed a contract with the Washington, D.C. law firm Paul Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and Garrison for $700,000 for one of their top litigators Kannon Shanmugam to argue Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta before the nation’s highest court.

But the state attorney general's office signed an addendum, doubling that amount to $1.4 million.

Shanmugam argued the state's case in late April, asking justices to allow Oklahoma to also be able to prosecute non-Native citizens when they commit crimes on reservation land. Under the Supreme Court ruling in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, tribes and the federal government are the only ones who can prosecute these crimes.

KOSU reached out to the attorney general's office for comment. They responded by saying they appreciated the work the firm has done for them.

"Additionally - All government contracts have a cap, so when the work performed exceeds the cap then we amend the contract to accommodate the additional work performed," said Rachel Roberts, director of communications for the attorney general's office. "In this case, CERT was granted at the Supreme Court requiring additional work to prepare for and submit briefs and conduct an oral argument."

The case is expected to be decided this summer.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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