Oklahoma Supreme Court rules that Gov. Stitt overstepped his authority in negotiating two gaming compacts without legislative approval

On January 26, 2021, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an opinion in Treat v. Stitt, a case regarding the governor’s power to renegotiate state gaming compacts. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Speaker of the House Charles McCall (R) and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R) who argued that Governor Kevin Stitt (R) overstepped his constitutional authority when he renegotiated the terms for the gaming contracts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. The gaming contracts at issue were enacted under the State-Tribal Gaming Act, which voters approved through State Question 712 in 2004. 

Justice James Winchester wrote the opinion for the court. Chief Justice Richard Darby joined Justice Winchester, as did substitute Justice John Reif. Justice Yvonne Kauger wrote a separate concurring opinion and was joined by Justices Douglas Combs, Noma Gurich. Justice Dustin Rowe concurred in the result only. Justice M. John Kane IV wrote a dissenting opinion. Justices James Edmondson and Tom Colbert recused themselves. 

Writing for the majority, Justice Winchester said “The Legislature has not authorized the Governor to bind the state with regard to tribal compacts… the compact executed by the Governor contravened state law. The Governor’s powers are limited by the Constitution. The Governor may exercise only the specific power granted. The Governor’s attempt to exceed this authority results in the actions being rendered wholly ineffectual and invalid.”

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Kane said he would dismiss the case for lack of indispensable parties, The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes, who also have gaming contracts with the state. 

Gov. Stitt said that he will not appeal the court’s decision. On January 27, 2021, he issued a statement that said he plans to work with a joint legislative committee to review the gambling compacts. 

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