Thursday, March 31, 2005

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Answers Federal Question on Oklahoma Gun Law

The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ("OCCA") answered a certified question this Monday submitted by Judge Holmes of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. WHIRLPOOL CORP. v. HENRY, 2005 OK CR 7 . In the federal lawsuit, national employers are challenging a state gun law.
House Bill 2122, which amended the Oklahoma Firearms Act and the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act became effective November 1, 2004. The new sections of law provided:

No person, property owner, tenant, employer, or business entity shall be permitted to establish any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle.

The Legislature passed the amendment in response to the firings of 12 workers at a Weyerhaeuser Co. paper mill in southeast Oklahoma in 2002. The timber company had extended its longtime ban on guns in the workplace to the parking lot, and dogs found guns in the 12 employees' vehicles.

Tulsa-based Williams Cos., Houston-based ConocoPhillips and other businesses filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tulsa last year challenging the statute.

The question before the OCCA was "Whether 21 O.S.Supp.2004, § 1289.7a or 21 O.S.Supp.2004, § 1290.22(B) (relating to the prohibition against establishing any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle) is a criminal statute, the violation of which may subject a violator to criminal misdemeanor sanctions or punishment under the laws of the State of Oklahoma?" WHIRLPOOL CORP. v. HENRY, 2005 OK CR 7, ¶1

The question was certified to help guide the federal court in deciding whether the state law is unconstitutional.

The OCCA held that because the plain language of the statute forbids an act, it fits squarely within the statutory definition of crime and public offense. See 21 O.S. § 3. Likewise the court noted that both acts are found within the Oklahoma Penal Code. As such, the court held that 21 O.S. § 1289.7a and 21 O.S. § 1290.22(B) "are both criminal statutes, the violation of which may subject a violator to criminal misdemeanor sanctions or punishment under the laws of the State of Oklahoma."

Assistant Attorney General Guy Hurst, said that the decision would probably make the constitutional issues argued by the State of Oklahoma harder to support. The state had argued the gun law is civil in nature and asked that the lawsuit be thrown out of federal court. The state claimed it is protected from civil litigation by sovereign immunity and the U.S. Constitution's 11th Amendment.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sex Offender Registry

I am prompted by the recent abductions and murders of several young women and children to post the folowing sites.
visit: for the Oklahoma Sex and Violent Crime Offender Registry.
visit: for a list of registries for all 50 states.
See also:

New Member of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

The newest member of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was sworn in yesterday. Arlene Johnson is replacing The Honorable Reta M. Strubhar who has retired after almost twelve years on the OCCA. Judge Strubhar was the first woman to sit on the OCCA, and Judge Johnson will be the second.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Former District Court Judge Accused of Indecent Exposure

Donald Thompson, former Creek County District Judge waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday. Thompson is facing three felony counts of indecent exposure for allegedly masturbating using a device called a "penis pump" under his robe while presiding over three separate trials in 2003, including two murder trials. Clark Brewster, Thompson's attorney, stated that "the judge still firmly denies these sensational charges." A court reporter and a Creek County bailiff told investigators that they had seen Thompson attach the pump during the murder trial of Kurt Vomberg in May of 2003. Several jurors also reported hearing a "sh-sh" sound like a bicycle pump or blood-pressure pump.

Cal Hobson Steps Down as Senate Pro Tem

After recently discussing his on-going battle with alcoholism with fellow lawmakers, Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson relinquished his leadership role today during a meeting of the House Democrats. This decision follows a vote of the Democratic caucus to ask Hobson to step down or to face a formal move to replace him. Hobson has been a state Senator since 1990 after serving for 12 years as a member of the State House of Representatives. Hobson has twice undergone treatment for his problem with alcohol abuse in 2003 and 2004. Senator Mike Morgan of Stillwater was elected to replace Hobson.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Oklahoma's Casket Law Stands

Under Oklahoma Title 59, Section 396.6,Oklahoma allows only licenced funeral directors to sell caskets.Oklahoma is one of only nine states to have sucha requirement. The stated purpose of this law is to protect families from fraud.
Kim Powers, a Ponca City woman who sells caskets on the Internet has lost an effort to overturn the law.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Powers' appeal from the Tenth Circuit's decision. The Tenth Circuit held that it is not the role of the court to second-guess economic restrictions enacted by state legislatures. This ruling conflicts with a recent Sixth Circuit opinion which found a similar Tennesee law unconstitutional.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Governor's Tort Reform Bill Fails to Gain Hearing

Senate Democrat leaders did not bring up Gov. Brad Henry’s lawsuit reform package for a vote on the Senate floor yesterday, the final day to vote on bills in the house of origin. Both Democrats and Republicans believed that the bill would not receive the votes needed to pass the Senate. Republican Senators are now focusing their attention on House Bill 2047, a tort reform bill authored by Speaker of the House Rep. Todd Heitt

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Attorney General is Attempting to Locate L. G. Tittsworth's Family

Attorney General Drew Edmondson is looking for the family members of Lawanna Gail Tittsworth. Because an execution date has been set for Garry Thomas Allen, the man convicted of murdering Ms. Tittsworth, the AG's victim/witness coordinator has been searching for her family, but without success. Tittsworth was murdered Nov. 21, 1986, as she attempted to pick up her sons at Beaulah’s Day Care Center in Oklahoma City. On March 7, 2005, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Allen’s execution date for May 19. Edmondson said, any time an execution date is set, his office attempts to notify victims’ family members . Family members are asked to contact Allyson Carson at 405-521-3921.
See previous post of February 24, 2005, "Attorney General Requests Execution Dates"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The End of Common-Law Marriage in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma is one of a fifteen-member minority of states that still recognizes common-law marriages. Yesterday, however, the House passed a bill that would cease the recognition of common-law marriage in Oklahoma. If House Bill 1455 is enacted, common-law marriages, not previously recognized by a court of competent jurisdiction, will no longer be recognized as valid after November 1, 2005. Representative Lee Denny of Cushing is the author of the bill. Denny said common-law marriage was a law from the cowboy days and had outlived its usefulness. Denny said the new law was designed to strengthen marriage in Oklahoma by encouraging traditional marriage.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Jimmy Ray Slaughter was Executed this Evening

After the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal for Jimmy Ray Slaughter on Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal on Monday, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Slaughter's attorneys for a stay of execution earlier today, Slaughter was executed by lethal injection at 6:19 p.m. today.
In his final statement Slaughter tilted his head so that he could smile at his three grown daughters, his fiance, and a death penalty opponent he befriended during his incaceration.
"It's OK," he told them. "I've been accused of murder and it's not true. It was a lie from the beginning. God knows it's true, my children who were with me know it's true and you people will know it's true someday. May God have mercy on your souls."
After his final statement, Slaughter exhaled deeply and closed his eyes. As the mixture entered his system, the color left his face. His mouth and eyes were slightly open when he was pronounced dead.

Monday, March 07, 2005

All 12 Members of the Tenth Circuit to Hear Cases in Oklahoma Universities

The Tenth Circuit Court of the United States is hearing cases at the University of Oklahoma College of Law today. Though usually only a panel of three hears cases outside of Denver, a full panel of 12 judges will consider arguments in two appeals out of New Mexico.
The criminal appeals on Monday challenge the constitutionality of federal sentencing guidelines. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that guidelines allowing federal judges to add time to a defendant's sentence if they found an aggravating factor, such as use of a gun, violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. Sergio Gonzalez-Huerta was convicted of illegally re-entering the United States after being convicted of a felony. He is asking that his sentence of four years and nine months be thrown out.
The panel also plans to conduct hearings at the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University in the next week. The Court will hear over 60 cases in this time.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Oklahoma Lawyer's License Suspended for One Year for having Sexual Relations with a Client

I was anxious to post the information about a recent disciplinary case which is rather interesting. Unfortunately, I have been incredibly busy the last week.

On February 22, 2005, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of State, ex rel. OBA v. Phillip John Anderson, 2005 OK 9.
The Oklahoma Bar Association filed a complaint against Phillip John Anderson for violations of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC), 5 O.S. 2001, Ch. 1, App. 3-A, specifically Rule 1.3 and Rule 8.4 . Lee Ann Stroud, Anderson's former client and the complaining witness, accused Anderson "of sexual assault against her in her home"; "of committing the crime of rape against her in her home"; and "of committing the crime of forcible oral sodomy against her in her home". Criminal charges against Anderson were filed but were later dismissed. Anderson "admitted having a sexual relationship with Stroud, and that he had had sex with her for the purpose of being hired to handle a medical malpractice case for her." Ironically, this medical malpractice case was against Stroud's former psychiatrist. Stroud had alleged that the psychiatrist had initiated a sexual relationship with her during her therapy. This sexual relationship lead to her divorce. Stroud hired Anderson for filing post-divorce contempt proceedings against her former husband.
Anderson had a history of having sexual relations with clients, including one divorce client whom Anderson later married.
In his testimony, Anderson stated that "he thought there was a specific ethics rule against having a personal relationship with clients, although he did not know which rule it was." "He stated he learned he should not engage in personal relationships with clients because of the toll it takes on him as the attorney and as a person."
The Court suspended Anderson's license for one year and assessed the costs of the proceeding. This holding was based (at least in part) on Anderson's lack of remorse. The Court distinguished the facts of this case from those of State, ex rel. OBA v. Robert F. Groshon, 2003 OK 112, 82 P.3d 99, in which the Court ordered the Respondent to be disciplined by a public censure because the Respondent showed remorse and because the incident appeared to be an isolated event.