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The hierarchy ­of laws

Letters to the Okla­homa Atty General

Seeking due process

 by Keith Purtell  - pub July 15, 2023


Letters to the Oklahoma AG

Months without reply?

AG Gentner Drummond
AG Gentner Drummond

After staff under previous Attorney General Mike Hunter made important documents disappear in 2019*, I was nervous about sending this crucial letter to current AG Gentner Drummond. But, I got return-receipt confirmation July 12, 2023. On July 27, I called and confirmed that the letter and attached federal document were assigned to a specific unit in the AG office. Time since assignment is without a reply.

What is this about?

In early 2022, I had important business with the Oklahoma Department of Labor (ODOL). I was also communicating with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) about the same issue, but I needed to start with the state.

After ODOL issued two contradictory statements and withdrew from the case, the IRS overruled them. The USDOL then told me that the standard procedure was to resubmit my wage claim. I did so between Aug 23, 2022 and Oct 7, 2022.

However, ODOL lawyers openly derided the IRS enforcement of wage laws, denied my right to due process, and attempted to circumvent the hierarchy of laws established in the Oklahoma Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. This was clearly an arbitrary infringement.

How did ODOL ignore the Constitution?

From the letter to Attorney General Drummond:
... they [ODOL] drastically changed direction and asserted “no jurisdiction.” Despite having just exercised jurisdiction. I can't find a precedent for that. With no jurisdiction, why issue a ruling? 07/14/2022 and 8/3/2022: The I.R.S. sent me letters confirming my employee status, but ▮▮▮ and ▮▮▮ ignored them. I contacted the United States Dept. of Labor, which told me the normal procedure is to re-submit the Oklahoma wage claim.

ODOL responded 11/1/2022:

The submission of additional materials from a separate, federal agency does not alter our decision."

This was stunning. Oklahomans generally expect high-ranking state employees, especially those involved in legal or policy-making roles, to have an understanding of the hierarchy of laws.

Why is this important to ordinary Oklahomans?

When there is a conflict between federal and state legal matters, "federal supremacy" establishes the hierarchy of laws. How this helps citizens:

  1. Consistent application of federal laws: The Supremacy Clause ensures that federal laws apply uniformly across all states, including Oklahoma. This consistency helps promote a sense of fairness under the law. It ensures that individuals and businesses in Oklahoma are subject to the same legal protections as those in other states.
  2. Protecting your rights: The Supremacy Clause plays a vital role in safeguarding your constitutional rights. When state laws conflict with federal laws, the Supremacy Clause ensures that the federal laws prevail. This protection extends to fundamental rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, such as freedom of speech, religion, and due process. It guarantees that your rights cannot be infringed upon by state legislation.
  3. Interstate commerce: Oklahoma, like other states, engages in commerce with other states and foreign nations. The Supremacy Clause promotes a harmonized economic environment by ensuring that federal regulations and treaties govern interstate and international trade. This facilitates the smooth functioning of businesses. It helps prevent a patchwork of conflicting regulations that could hinder commerce.
  4. National unity and stability: The Supremacy Clause plays a critical role in maintaining the unity and stability of the United States as a nation. It establishes a framework where the federal government has the authority to address issues of national importance, such as defense, foreign relations, and interstate matters. This unity ensures that Oklahoma remains an integral part of the broader nation, benefiting from the national resources, protection, and opportunities.
  5. Upholding the rule of law: The Supremacy Clause upholds the principle that the Constitution and United States laws are the supreme law of the land. This principle helps maintain the rule of law. It provides a legal framework that promotes order and stability in our society.

The word "supremacy" is a bit misleading in this instance. When I look at what is being accomplished by the clause, a better word might be "cooperation." For example, Oklahoma has no laws regarding state employee breaks or meal times, so the federal law applies.

The end result of the clause being honored is that Oklahoma and the U.S. government cooperate. And, Oklahomans get more stable government and more efficient law enforcement.


Federal supremacy does not mean the national government can exercise unlimited power or override all aspects of state governance. The national government's authority is constitutionally limited, and the reserved powers of the states, as outlined in the Tenth Amendment, are still protected.

In our state Constitution...

"The State of Oklahoma is an inseparable part of the Federal Union, and the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land." ( Article 1 as a PDF )

The clause itself

From the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

*past disappearance of official documents (new tab/window)

return receipt for delivery

Report problems

The Corrections Policy is a much more efficient and honest way of addressing issues than bringing a lawsuit against the author(s). Bringing a lawsuit instead of asking for a correction reveals the underlying motives of the person or persons who have chosen to abuse the legal system to intimidate citizen journalists.

I may be reached via general email, via direct message on Twitter@keithpurtell (new tab) or the Messenger tool on Facebook@keith.purtell (new tab).

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