Case Number: CV-2022-2187
Court: Oklahoma County District Court
Client: Rebecca Nagle
Petition Filed: Nov. 8, 2022
Background: Beginning in October 2021, journalist and author Rebecca Nagle submitted the first of several requests under the Oklahoma Open Records Act to Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt and state Attorney General John M. O’Connor for records relevant to her forthcoming book, “Indian Territory,” which expands on her earlier reporting on the complex legal and political issues concerning Native American land and Indigenous rights.
Nagle, a Cherokee Nation citizen who hosts the podcast series “This Land,” requested certain emails and other communications between current and former public officials leading up to and following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. The ruling reaffirmed the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s treaty boundaries in Oklahoma as a present-day “Indian reservation” and resolved questions concerning criminal jurisdiction in cases involving Native Americans on tribal land in Oklahoma. Nagle’s requests specifically sought communications that mentioned, among other search terms, McGirt, other court cases concerning tribal sovereignty, and more.
While officials from both offices acknowledged receiving the requests, neither has produced any responsive records, despite Nagle’s multiple follow-up communications.
On behalf of Nagle, Kathryn E. Gardner, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney in Oklahoma, filed a public records lawsuit against Stitt and O’Connor, claiming that both officials violated the Open Records Act by wrongfully withholding the requested records and failing to fulfill Nagle’s requests in a prompt and reasonable manner. The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma County District Court to declare that both officials violated the state’s public records law and to order them to immediately produce all responsive records.
Quote: “It is in the public interest for the events surrounding the historic Supreme Court decision, including the actions and communications of Oklahoma’s public officials, to be well documented and accurately reported,” Nagle’s petition for relief states.
Update: On March 27, 2023, Nagle agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after the offices of the governor and attorney general produced more than 700 pages of email communications.