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Lawyers in the Legislature

By Thad Balkman

Lawyers in the LegislatureOne of the most common myths about government and politics is that there is an overabundance of lawyers in the Legislature. However, the facts do not support this myth. Following the November 2012 general election, there are now 22 lawyers in the Oklahoma Legislature, down from 26 at the beginning of the 53rd Legislature. Percentage wise, only 15 percent of the 149-member Legislature is comprised of lawyers. For this reason, I always applaud those in the legal profession who run for office. Whether they win or lose, their decision to place themselves in the arena, as President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, merits our praise and respect and is a positive reflection upon our profession.

The total number of attorneys in the Senate is presently nine. Incumbents Brian Crain from Tulsa and Clark Jolley from Edmond were re-elected to final four-year terms in the Senate.

In addition to Mr. Crain and Mr. Jolley, the other attorneys in the Senate are: Patrick Anderson, Sean Burrage, David Holt, Tom Ivester, Rob Johnson, John Sparks and Anthony Sykes. The Senate lost three lawyer legislators when Richard Lerblance and Charlie Laster did not run for re-election. Jonathan Nichols was term limited and could not run again, but he has been appointed chief legal counsel for the Senate by President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman.

The total number of lawyers in the House is now 13. In addition, new Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon is a graduate of the OCU School of Law. The only incumbent attorney in the House on the ballot, Norman’s Aaron Stiles, was re-elected to a second term. In addition to Mr. Shannon and Mr. Stiles, the other lawyers returning to the House are Randy Grau, Fred Jordan, Mark McCullough, Richard Morrissette, Ben Sherrer, John Trebilcock and Cory Williams. There are five new attorneys in the House: Scott Biggs, Jon Echols, Kay Floyd, Terry O’Donnell and David Perryman. In addition to the lawyer legislators in the House, Oklahoma City attorney Rick Rose has been appointed chief of staff for Speaker Shannon.

Congratulations to both the newly elected and returning lawyer legislators in the Legislature. If history is an indicator, they will rise quickly through the ranks to positions of key influence within their caucuses and respective chambers in large part due to their training and experience as lawyers.

LAWYERS WHO RAN FOR OFFICE

The following OBA members also warrant our recognition and appreciation for also running for various state and congressional offices: Paul Catalano, Steve Cortes, David Davis, Tom Guild, Julie Hall, John Olson, David Phillips III, Michael Romero, Dustin Rowe and Rob Wallace.

THE THIRD BRANCH

The 2012 election cycle saw an unprecedented move by special interest groups participating in the retention election campaign. We are indebted to 2012 OBA President Cathy Christensen, the OBA Board of Governors, other OBA leaders and the OBA staff for leading the charge in properly educating the public on the judicial retention ballot and maintaining the integrity of the third branch of government.

Mr. Balkman is executive director of the Oklahoma Lawyers Association. This article was originally published in the Dec. 8, 2012, Oklahoma Bar Journal.