Government , Legal

U.S. Attorney adding prosecutors to handle growing caseload

TAHLEQUAH — Citing an increased caseload, two of Oklahoma’s U.S. Attorney’s Offices will be getting additional funding to bring on additional prosecutors.

As part of a Sept. 30 visit to the Cherokee Nation, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Eastern districts of Oklahoma will receive funding for the next three years to cover the costs of adding two prosecutors to deal specifically with cases referred under the Major Crimes Act.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in July in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was never disestablished, the caseload for the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Tulsa and Muskogee have grown exponentially. The Northern District of Oklahoma prosecuted 114 cases just in August, or half of its total from all of 2019.

During an August consultation with officials from the Osage Nation, Northern District U.S. Attorney Trent Shores expressed concerns that his office might not be able to keep up with the increased workload. In addition to the two new special prosecutors, both his office and his counterparts in Muskogee are also getting reinforcements in the form of about 20 prosecutors and support staff who are volunteering from other Department of Justice offices across the country. The Tulsa office currently has 22 prosecutors.

“We’re used to doing more with less in Indian Country, but this is much, much different in a post-McGirt world,” the Choctaw Nation citizen said at the Aug. 25 meeting.