Bar Journal February 2014
Complete Bar Journal
In recent years, a collaborative approach to domestic litigation has become more popular nationwide. In light of this trend toward an alternative to litigation, the Oklahoma Academy of Collaborative Professionals (OACP) has been formed as a part of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Family Law Section. Members of the OACP include attorneys, mental health professionals and financial neutrals such as CPAs and financial consultants, who work together using the collaborative process to reach a resolution to domestic issues. The collaborative process is one that ensures that each marriage partner has accurate information, sound legal advice, solid support in problem solving and decision making and has help to lay groundwork for respectful working relationships among the parties after the actual process is completed.
Reform of the Oklahoma Juvenile Justice System is on the horizon. After the Legislature called for reform by passing the House Joint Resolution 1023,1 Gov. Mary Fallin authorized the establishment of the Oklahoma Juvenile Justice Reform Committee (JJRC) by executive order on May 16, 2013.2 The purpose of the JJRC is to study the current system and code, compare it to other states’ systems and codes and report recommendations for improvement or propose statutes necessary to promote public safety, treatment and prevention of juvenile delinquency. A report is due sometime in early 2014.3 The executive order adds to the H.J.R. 1023 by requesting the final report include “Oklahoma’s recidivism rates and any systemic changes to help decrease this rate.”4
One of the most slippery phrases in all of law is “good faith.” Are there two words in the English language more subject to individual expectations? Yet, courts in Oklahoma and throughout the United States are ordering parties to participate “in good faith” in mediation, without any objective standard or measurement of exactly what those two words mean.
Currently there are 6581 open domestic cases pending in Canadian County. I am one of three judges assigned to these types of cases. Our dockets are not just limited to domestic cases, but also include assignments to matters relating to probate, guardianship, criminal, civil, traffic, protective orders and small claims.
Almost six years ago, the University of Oklahoma College of Law (OU Law) launched its collaboration with the Early Settlement program to offer mediation training to our students. OU Law’s emphasis on Native American peoples made this partnership particularly poignant. The traditional indigenous practices of peacemaking circles and the creation of a safe, nonjudgmental environment for addressing conflict are reflected in a mediation approach. Our mediation program is the perfect blend of today’s call for more skill training for law students with an exposure to cross-cultural practices of dispute resolution.
It’s a typical day in an Oklahoma public school. In the hallway during the rush to get to class, two students exchange harsh words and a fistfight breaks out — putting other students in physical danger. The two students could be suspended, pushing them behind in their school work and setting up further confrontation in the future, but there might be a better alternative. Enter PROS — Peaceful Resolutions for Oklahoma Students — a peer-based mediation program that equips these students with the skills they need to resolve their conflicts peacefully and effectively, while learning respect for each other in the process.
This year, as in the past, there are many bills and joint resolutions worthy of review and analysis. Knowledge and understanding by bar members of proposed new laws and proposed changes in existing law grows more important every year. With 2,500 measures carried over from 2013 and the more than 2,000 new measures introduced in 2014, it simply is not practical to try to review, understand and report on every introduced bill and joint resolution.
The JNC nominates candidates for appointment by the governor to fill judicial vacancies on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, Court of Civil Appeals and the District Courts.
The JNC thoroughly investigates, interviews and evaluates all candidates for judicial office. It then presents a final list of three candidates to the governor, who must select a new judge from this list. Learn more facts and myths about the JNC.
Increasing public understanding of courts and the judiciary is a major goal for 2014 OBA President Renée DeMoss. The annual celebration of Law Day is the perfect opportunity for Oklahoma lawyers to support this leadership initiative by continuing our state’s tradition of educational outreach as we spotlight the freedoms, rights and responsibilities we enjoy under our three independent branches of government.