Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Stitt’s rehearing request
OKLAHOMA CITY – By a 5-1 vote, the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied on Sept. 15 a rehearing request by Gov. Kevin Stitt concerning the validity of gaming compacts he forged with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouri Tribe.
The vote included a dissent by Justice M. John Kane IV, with Justice James Edmondson and Justice Tom Colbert recusing themselves.
The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association immediately voiced its support of the court’s decision not to rehear the case, with Chairman Matthew L. Morgan criticizing Stitt’s “go-it-alone approach.”
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied Gov. Stitt’s request for a rehearing of the petition filed by the pro tem and speaker, after declaring the agreements Gov. Kevin Stitt entered into with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation were invalid and unlawful,” Morgan said. “This denial of a rehearing further underscores that Gov. Stitt’s go-it-alone approach is not legal nor helpful in moving state-tribal relationships forward.”
The governor’s office responded just as quickly, questioning the reach of the court’s jurisdiction without specifying possible arguments.
“The validity of these compacts is now before the federal district court in Washington, D.C.,” said Baylee Lakey, communication director for Stitt. “The ruling in that case will determine the validity of the compacts under federal law.”
In a 7-1 decision on July 21, the court determined the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria compacts were “invalid under Oklahoma law.”
The deals would have allowed the two tribes to offer wagering on sporting events and house-banked card and table games, but because such games haven’t been authorized by the Legislature, the court said any revenue from such games is prohibited.
Stitt requested legal clarification of whether the Comanche and Otoe-Missouri compacts might address gaming that could later be legalized in Oklahoma, and whether the compacts might be legal if the offending games were removed from the agreements.
The governor’s brief claimed “the expectation of the parties was clearly that any unenforceable provision be excised and that the remainder of the compacts be enforced” and the Oklahoma Supreme Court “is silent on whether the unenforceable provisions related to the scope of the covered games are severable.”
However, the justices voted against the request for a rehearing.
The case against Stitt was brought by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall, claiming the governor exceeded his authority in negotiating the compacts.
Treat and McCall have another lawsuit pending against Stitt challenging the compacts signed with the United Keetoowah Band and Kialegee Tribal Town.
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Citizen Potawatomie nations also have filed suit against Stitt, Bernhardt, the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in federal court. The plaintiffs claim Stitt’s agreements initially allow lower fee percentages for the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria than other tribes pay under their compacts. All Oklahoma tribes agreed to the same exclusivity terms that went into effect in 2005.
The four challenged compacts were passively approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior after it allowed their respective 45-day windows to close without taking action.