Indian Affairs | Court of Indian Offenses

Court of Indian Offenses



The first Court of Indian Offenses in the area that was to become the State of Oklahoma was originally established prior to statehood in the Indian Territory in 1886. The original Court of Indian Offenses was created to provide law enforcement for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache (KCA) reservation. Several prominent tribal leaders served as judges of the court including Quanah Parker (Comanche), Lone Wolf (Kiowa) and several others. An Indian police force provided the law enforcement for the KCA, Cheyenne-Arapaho, and other reservations. Thus, the Court of Indian Offenses pre-dates Oklahoma state courts by several decades.

After the reservations in Oklahoma were opened by land runs to non-Indian homesteading, and federal Indian policy sought to weaken tribal governments and break up tribal land holdings, the courts over time lost their funding and consequently ceased to function. With the void in the enforcement of tribal law, the state began to assert its authority over the remaining tribal and allotted Indian lands even though no jurisdiction properly existed. In recent decades, the Indian tribes have regained the jurisdiction over these lands and have re-established tribal court systems.

The State of Oklahoma once contended that tribal governments had no authority to operate their own justice systems, arguing that the Indian nations had no land remaining under their jurisdictions. Much confusion arose because many thought that tribes only asserted jurisdiction over “reservation” lands. Many people in Oklahoma incorrectly assumed that reservations were terminated at statehood. Recent court decisions have made it clear that tribes assert jurisdiction over all lands that are “Indian country”, including reservations, dependent Indian communities, and Indian allotments. These Indian country lands from the basis of tribal jurisdiction today. Since few Indian tribes had operating judicial systems in place in the late 1970's. When tribal jurisdiction was re-affirmed, the Court of Indian Offenses for the Anadarko Area Tribes now the Southern Plains Region Tribes was created. Courts of Indian Offenses are established throughout the U.S. under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), providing the commonly used name — the “CFR” Court”. Until such time as a particular Indian tribe establishes their own tribal court, the Court of Indian Offenses will act as a tribe’s judicial system. The only difference between CFR Courts and Tribal Courts is the form of laws they enforce.

When the court was re-established in western Oklahoma in 1979, there were four CFR Courts covering eighteen Indian nations. A number of tribes have since established their own systems of justice. Accordingly, the CFR Courts for these tribes have been deactivated. In 1991, a separate CFR Court system was established for Eastern Oklahoma Region Tribes covering eastern Oklahoma, which is headquartered in Muskogee, Oklahoma.


The CFR Court is a trial court and parties present their cases before a Magistrate. Appeals may be taken from the trial court to the Court of Indian Appeals.

Criminal misdemeanor cases involving Indians in Indian country must be heard in tribal courts or the CFR Courts, since criminal cases involving Indians within Indian country are not within the state’s jurisdiction. Cross deputization of state and tribal police officers provides for needed law enforcement cooperation, especially in areas where Indian land parcels are mixed in with non-Indian lands under state jurisdiction.

The prosecutor acts on behalf of the tribes to enforce criminal laws and are licensed attorneys hired by contract. Criminal offenses, contained within the federal regulations (25 CFR Part 11), provides the offenses that are applicable in the court.

Criminal punishments may include labor, placement in prison, and/or the payment of court costs and fine. The various constitutions of the Indian tribes provide for civil and procedural rights of persons coming before the court, as do various federal laws including the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA). A public defender is available to defend persons in criminal matters who cannot afford a lawyer and for parents subject to proceedings affecting their right to child custody. Persons appearing in the court are entitled to a trial by jury, and other elements of due process under the tribal constitutions and the ICRA.


WHAT CRIMINAL CASES CAN BE HEARD IN CFR COURT? Criminal cases include misdemeanor cases involving Indians that occur within tribal jurisdiction. The areas under tribal jurisdiction include lands defined as "Indian country" under 18 U.S. Code, Section 1511. Indian country includes land within Indian reservation boundaries in the state, dependent Indian communities, and Indian allotments. Felonies involving Indians within Indian country that are federal crimes must be heard in Federal court. Criminal Cases involving non-Indians in Indian country are usually brought in state court.

WHAT CIVIL CASES CAN BE HEARD IN CFR COURT? The CFR Court can hear many different types of civil cases involving Indian or non-Indian arising in “Indian country”, where tribal members are defendants. Cases involving Indian and/or non-Indian or non-tribal member are also permitted by consent of the defendant to the personal jurisdiction of the court. The civil matters heard in the court include divorce, guardianship, custody, child support, determination of paternity, name change, business contracts, personal injury, probate of non-trust property, in addition to other civil disputes. To begin a civil suit, a party, or the party’s attorney must pay the required filing fee and file the required petition. After that time the court may set the matter for hearing and trial, if required.

DO YOU NEED A LAWYER TO APPEAR IN THE CFR COURT? No. It is advisable to get assistance of an attorney. Defendants in criminal or child welfare cases (involving the termination of parental rights), who cannot afford an attorney may apply to the court to have the public defender appointed to assist in their defense. In other matters, parties are encouraged to hire an attorney who is familiar with the laws and procedures with the CFR Court. The judges and court clerks cannot help parties present cases or act as advocates. Ethical codes do not permit court clerks, judges or other court personnel to assist parties in preparing filings. The Office of the Court Clerk does provide forms and instruction.

CAN ONE APPEAL A CFR COURT DECISION? Yes. Parties have a right to appeal their cases to the Court of Indian Appeals, if they believe that one of the judges of the CFR Court has committed an error or for the relief, such as a writ of habeas corpus, as provided for in the court rules. A notice of appeal must be filed within 15 days after entry of judgment or an order issued by Court of Indian Offenses. Parities must submit a filing fee, insure that the records are transferred to the appeals court within the required time period after the record has been certified and file the necessary petition in error and briefs by the deadlines set forth in the court rules. Failure to abide by the deadlines may result in dismissal of the appeal. Unlike the trial, hearings are held before the appellate court unless the judges agree to a hearing after a party requests one. The decisions are made primarily by reviewing the written briefs and court record of the trial court. The Court of Indian Appeals consists of three judges who review the action of the trial court to determine if the decision made should be upheld or overturned. Generally, a party is limited to discuss issues and evidence presented to the trial court, and cannot submit additional evidence or legal arguments on appeal. Copies of all pleadings and case authority must be mailed to each judge, and filed with the court for proper consideration. If a party wishes to expedite a decision, the party should demonstrate why the court should hear the matter in an expedited manner.


The CFR Court staff is NOT PERMITTED under Ethical Codes and Court Rules to provide legal advice, interpret court rules, or prepare parties documents. Please do not ask the court staff to provide these services. Parties should retain an attorney to obtain legal advice. Please read Assistance of Court Staff.


Form packets are available for your use and are designed to make it easier to select forms required and print the instructions for an action. Information is NOT a substitute for legal advice. For any legal questions, please contact an attorney.

Instructions - Filing for Administrator of Estate
Petition for Administrator of Estate
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Administrator of Estate

Instructions - Filing for Child Custody
Petition for Custody
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Child Custody

Instructions - Filing a Civil Complaint
Civil Complaint
Summons - Civil Complaint

Instructions - Filing for Dissolution of Marriage
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Dissolution of Marriage
Visitation Schedule

Instructions - Filing for Guardianship of Adult Incapacitated
Petition for Guardianship of Adult Incapacitated
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Guardianship Adult Incapacitated

Instructions - Filing for Guardianship of Minor Child
Petition for Guardianship of Minor Child
Acknowledgment of Service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Guardianship Minor Child

Instructions - Filing for Name Change of Adult
Petition for Name Change of Adult
Publication Notice of Name Change of Adult

Instructions - Filing for Name Change of Minor Child
Petition for Name Change of Minor Child
Acknowledgment of service, Consent to Jurisdiction & Waiver
Summons - Name Change of Minor Child
Publication Notice of Name Change of Minor Child

Protective Order Information
Instructions - Filing for Protective Order
Petition for Protective Order


  • Affidavit
  • Answer to Petition
  • Application for Contempt
  • Application for Extension of Protective Order
  • Application to Serve Petition & Summons by Alternate Means
  • Application for Writ of Assistance
  • Confidential Address/Phone Request
  • Financial Report of Decedent’s Estate
  • Inventory Report of Decedent’s Estate
  • Marriage License Application
  • Motion for Continuance
  • Motion to Dismiss
  • Motion to Modify
  • Motion for Telephonic Hearing
  • Notice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information
  • Notice of Intent to Appeal
  • Pauper's Affidavit


25 CFR Part 11 - Courts of Indian Offenses and Law and Order Code
Bail Schedule
Court Decorum
Court Rules
Complaint Form of Clerical or Judicial Misconduct
Southern Plains Region Jurisdiction Map
Organizational Chart
Request for Copy of Record
Self Representation: Assistance of Court Staff, Your Day in Court, How to Act in Court, and General Tips



Warrant information that is contained in this website is for informational purposes only in an effort to serve the interests of the public. If you would like to know if a warrant has been issued for your arrest, please review the Outstanding Warrant Report. If your name appears on the Outstanding Warrant Report and you wish to cooperate, please contact Angela Anderson, Deputy Court Clerk at 405/247-8508.


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