Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tribes Request Partial Summary Judgment in Sardis Lawsuit in Okla

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tribes Request Partial Summary Judgment in Sardis Lawsuit in Okla

Article excerpt

Attorneys for the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed a motion Tuesday asking for partial summary judgment in their federal lawsuit over the Sardis Lake Reservoir.

Tribal attorney Michael Burrage said the filing was the appropriate step to clarify issues and protect the current legal process surrounding the lawsuit.

The motion follows a filing by state Attorney General Scott Pruitt last week to move the case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Pruitt asked the court to decide whether or not both tribes had state water rights. Pruitt also asked the court to assume original jurisdiction over tribal claims to the water of the Kiamichi, Clear Boggy and Muddy Boggy basins.

Burrage said Pruitt's motion missed the point.

"The law doesn't support them in what they are trying to do, and we believe it's a distraction," he said in a media statement. "It would be much better for the parties to focus on the forum we're already in - the only one that has jurisdiction over the federal questions that the nations' suit has framed."

Burrage said the tribes' latest motion asks federal Judge Lee West to rule that Oklahoma's stream adjudication statutes do not satisfy federal standards or reach the relevant questions presented in the tribes' lawsuit.

"The nations also seek to have this court declare that under the 1830 Treaty, the Oklahoma Enabling Act, and federal common law, neither the nation's water rights, nor their regulatory authority over water resources are subject to determination by the exercise of state jurisdiction or the application of state law," according to the tribe's filing.

Burrage said claims that the tribes were trying to take residents' water were not true.

"The state has said it has to sue its own citizens in order to protect their water rights for them, but that just isn't true," he said. "The nations' complaint expressly states that it does not and will not disturb existing uses of water made under valid permits. That issue isn't even on the table."

Burrage said both tribes believe that a request for adjudication is unnecessary and unwise since their federal court claims do not disrupt any existing use of water pursuant to a valid permit. …

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