judges

Among those coming to court before District Judge Jeff Payton on Tuesday morning, in front of the courthouse for COVID safety, were attorney Barrett Harris, left, with Payton on right, and assisting, center, Court Clerk Nichole Cooper.

A crowd of about 100 gathered in front of the Adair County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, Nov. 17, to discuss with District Judge Jeff Payton cases involving Cherokee citizens that might be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's McGirt decision.

It took less than 45 minutes for clients and attorneys to find out whether their cases were moved to Jan. 19, 2021 at 9 a.m. or an earlier date.

Only one man was sent to jail, and he didn’t show up; his mother came on his behalf. After the judge told her to take him to jail, a deputy was dispatched to pick him up.

Payton announced that most cases would be passed until the Jan. 19 date, anticipating further decisions on the McGirt ruling being made by then. He worked down the list, assisted by the court clerk and Judge Liz Brown, in getting everyone through the process.

“The court doesn't have clear jurisdiction until we get guidance from the Court of Criminal Appeals,” said attorney Barrett Harris.

Also on Tuesday morning, clients were to find out if their cases would continue.

“They’re getting everybody on the McGirt ticket so we can figure out which way we’re going. We’ll see if they may go to on to federal court – or if a misdemeanor, tribal court – unless the courts offer some other guidance,” Harris said.

Attorney Jeff Jones was also there with clients to see the judge.

“The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has to make that McGirt mandate for us to determine if the Cherokee tribe is, as well, under that mandate,” said Jones.

The morning's events just kicked the case down the road, Jones said.

Payton said that on Jan. 19, the Cherokee Nation may be on hand to take over the cases passed Tuesday.

“If they fall under McGirt, with the same rationale as the Creeks, we hope the Cherokee Nation will be here to schedule these cases on Jan. 19. But we do have them scheduled to be back on January to be resolved,” said Payton.