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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is seen at the White House on June 18, 2020. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House
Oklahoma Supreme Court: Treat v. Stitt
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Indianz.Com

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has issued a decision in Treat v. Stitt, a dispute over Class III gaming compacts in Oklahoma.

In the decision released on Tuesday, the court held that Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) violated state law by signing compacts with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town. The agreements did not follow the so-called “model” gaming compact and weren’t approved by the Oklahoma Legislature’s Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations for diverging from prior practice, the 10-page ruling stated.

“The Executive branch’s action in entering into the new compacts with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town–containing different terms than the Model Gaming Compact and without approval from the Joint Committee–disrupts the proper balance between the Executive and Legislative branches,” Justice James R. Winchester wrote for the court.

“Without proper approval by the Joint Committee, the new tribal gaming compacts are invalid under Oklahoma law,” the decision stated.

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A concurrence was written by Justice Yvonne Kauger and joined by Justice Doug Combs and Chief Justice Noma Gurich. The 11-page document explains the limits of the governor’s power, one of the major issues that derailed Stitt’s gaming compacts.

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Another concurrence was submitted by Justice Dustin Rowe, who was named to the bench by Stitt. In the two-page document, he agreed with the final outcome but quibbled with the majority’s reliance on the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations’s role in Class III gaming compacts.

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Justice M. John Kane IV, also appointed by Stitt, was the only dissenter. His one-sentence objection — “I dissent for the reasons set forth in my dissent to Treat v. Stitt, 2020 OK 64, 473 P.3d 43 (Treat I)” — is attached to the bottom of the majority ruling.

Treat I is a prior ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court which struck down two different Class III gaming compacts that the governor negotiated during the COVID-19 pandemic as illegal. The agreements were signed with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe.

Justice James E. Edmondson and Justice Tom Colbert were recused from the case.

“We appreciate the clarity and succinct wisdom of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling today,” said Matthew Morgan, the Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

“The Executive branch’s action in entering into the new compacts with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town — containing different terms than the Model Gaming Compact and without approval from the Joint Committee — disrupts the proper balance between the Executive and Legislative branches,” said Morgan, who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

“As we have consistently maintained, the renewed Model Gaming Compact crafted more than 15 years ago is the only valid electronic gaming compact between the State and any Oklahoma Tribal Nation,” Morgan added.