Choctaw Nation attorney appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney

Photo provided. Cory C. Ortega, right, with the Choctaw Nation Legal Department is welcomed and congratulated by United States Attorney Brian J. Kuester. Ortega has been appointed as Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

Choctaw Nation
Kelsey Brown

DURANT – One of the Choctaw Nation’s newest employees has received a special appointment from the United States Department of Justice. Cory C. Ortega came on board in September 2019 as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Choctaw Nation Legal Department. On Jan. 13, 2020, Ortega was appointed to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to serve under U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester.

The Choctaw Nation applied for and received grant funding, which allowed for the hiring of an assistant prosecuting attorney for cases in tribal court and to serve as the appointed SAUSA, on behalf of the Choctaw Nation. That began a search to fill the position. After Ortega was selected by the Choctaw Nation, the federal government launched its in-depth background check. In the meantime, Ortega began working in the Choctaw tribal court system. After being cleared by the Department of Justice in January, Ortega was able to begin working in the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The goal of the SAUSA appointment is to increase the likelihood that every criminal offense occurring within the Choctaw Nation is prosecuted in tribal court, federal court, or both. Since receiving the appointment, Ortega has split his time between the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Muskogee and the Choctaw Nation Prosecutor’s Office.

“I am able to do both jobs,” he said. “I usually spend a couple of days a week in Muskogee at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the rest of the time I am in Durant at the Choctaw Nation Headquarters.”

The Choctaw Nation tribal courts, Ortega explained, deal with crimes committed within “Indian Country,” by Indian offenders against Indian victims, and some domestic violence crimes committed by non-Indians that are covered by the Violence Against Women Act. All other crimes committed by non-Indian offenders within the Choctaw Nation are referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or to the State of Oklahoma.

Ortega was born and raised in Gatesville, Texas. After serving in the United States Navy from 2003-2007, he attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, and earned his Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, magna cum laude. He then received his Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, graduating in 2013.

For the past decade Ortega has acquired legal experience in “Indian Country.” While attending Southeastern, Ortega served as an intern for the Choctaw Nation assisting in preparing legal documents for Choctaw tribal members. Prior to joining the Choctaw Nation Prosecutor’s Office, Ortega worked in the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office, then as an assistant district attorney in the Caddo County District Attorney’s Office, and later practiced criminal defense throughout central Oklahoma.

Until they relocate, Ortega’s wife and two children are remaining at their home in Moore, while he commutes. Fortunately, Ortega has several family members located in the Durant area, in case he cannot make it home after a long day at the office or in court.

Ortega can be reached by phone at (580) 924-8280 ext. 2976 or by emailing cortega@choctawnation.com.

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