Federal prosecutor's office in rural Oklahoma struggles to hire attorneys for spiking caseloads
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma “isn’t even close” to hiring lawyers after obtaining funding to ramp up from eight criminal prosecutors to 159 employees, according to Bloomberg Law. Image from Shutterstock.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma is struggling to hire lawyers after obtaining funding to ramp up from eight criminal prosecutors to 159 employees.
“The office isn’t even close to filling the new slots,” Bloomberg Law reports.
The hiring quest is spurred by high caseloads in the wake of the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court case McGirt v. Oklahoma, which held that a large part of eastern central Oklahoma is an American Indian reservation.
The decision means that tribal members who commit crimes on reservation land can’t be prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma. That job often falls to the tribes. But major crimes can be prosecuted by the federal government.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Wilson of the Eastern District of Oklahoma told Bloomberg Law that he has been seeking applicants for the Muskogee, Oklahoma, office since early this year. But he “has yet to find enough qualified applicants willing to relocate to an office next door to a largely vacant shopping mall and surrounded by long-idled oil wells,” Bloomberg Law says.
Across the street from the main federal prosecution office sits “a row of dilapidated homes with occasional squatters,” the article says.
State and local prosecutors initially signed on to the job, but “many didn’t last long,” Bloomberg Law says. The publication learned in interviews with six former prosecutors that geography wasn’t the only reason for disillusionment. Other problems were stress caused by being overworked and adapting to the rigid criminal procedure required by the federal system.
Wilson told Bloomberg Law that he is pitching the “unique opportunity to get significant violent crime investigation and prosecution experience” at “the cutting edge of a significant change of jurisdiction.”