While extremely unpopular, Tennessee County Mayors, (and many City Mayors), have the power, under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 58-2-110, to order masks be worn in public settings during a time of pandemic emergency. Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee has declared the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 58-2-107. For citizens, this means that criminal citations and arrests are possible for violating any ordinance requiring masks be worn in public. Nashville has recently began strictly enforcing their version of this policy. For public institutes such as natural gas utilities, these same emergency mandates bar the utility from disconnecting a person’s home utilities for non-payment of fees due during the time of emergency. See e.g., In Re: Emergency Petition of the Consumer Advocate Unit of the Financial Division of the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General, 2020 WL 4207282 (Tenn. Pub. Serv. Comm. 7/20/2020).
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020), (decided on July 9, 2020), saw that Court uphold a 200 year old treaty between the United States and Creek Indians that traces back to Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears. As a result of the McGirt decision, most of Eastern Oklahoma, including Tulsa, is now considered part of Indian Country. Contracts, land rights, and criminal cases in Eastern Oklahoma must be viewed, at least partially, through the scope of Federal Indian Law. By way of example, between July 9, 2020 and August 9, 2020, over 1000 criminal convictions by Oklahoma state courts have been overturned as a direct result of McGirt because state courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions of defendants on Indian lands. Other dormant, but valid, treaties can be expected to again see future honor as a result of McGirt. If the area of the country you live in was once Indian territory, (e.g., Chattanooga, Tennessee), look to see if there may be an old Indian treaty that may impact your case. If you wish to discuss a legal matter, such as how Native American bloodlines may impact a pending child custody case in Tennessee, call attorney Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 for a free consultation.