Oklahoma Bar Journal

Say What!? Law Day 2019

By Kara Pratt

This year’s Law Day theme is “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.” The theme focuses on these three fundamental rights and calls upon us to understand and fight to protect them. In the United States and abroad, free society is built through free speech and free press. These topics often become the center of conversation and the focus of litigation. It is hard to imagine a free society without these individual liberties, but historical and current debates surrounding them continually challenge us to consider their boundaries and resilience. Technology is ever changing and shaping and shifting how free speech and free press work in the everyday world.

One of the primary objectives of Law Day has always been education and reverence for the rule of law. As lawyers, we are necessarily educators. We educate our clients, jurors and in some cases, opposing counsel. We do it all the time, and by training, excel at it. We should not leave our special talents at our office door.

Being celebrated in Oklahoma since the 1950s, Law Day is an excellent opportunity to share our talents with another generation. It is an opportunity to work with our favorite colleagues, old and new, to do something meaningful and to stir the same fire for the law that we have in our careers.

This year’s Ask A Lawyer program will air Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. on OETA, Oklahoma’s public television station across the state. The topics cover landlord/tenant law, the Oklahoma Innocence Project and divorce. Veteran newscaster and attorney Dick Pryor will be this year’s moderator and Angela Buckelew will serve as host. We expect this to be one of the best shows yet!

The landlord/tenant law segment will feature attorney Jennifer Montagna and two of her clients. One client faced a cold Christmas when her heat and oven went out and the landlord refused to fix the issues. Another client received notice of termination of a Section 8 voucher based on a false report that she had an unauthorized occupant.

The divorce segment will focus on two of my clients who will each discuss their different and unique divorce/child custody cases. One client had been in an abusive relationship while the other client had a spouse with mental health issues.

The Oklahoma Innocence Project segment will focus on the exoneration of DeMarchoe Carpenter after he was convicted for the murder of Karen Summers in Tulsa in 1995, together with his friend Malcolm Scott. Vicki Behenna, executive director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project, will take viewers through the case and the importance of taking a second look.

OBA President Chuck Chesnut will share information about the free legal services offered by the OBA’s Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes Program. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Noma Gurich will share her thoughts on this year’s theme and will recognize the Law Day Contest winners.

More than 1,050 students from across the state submitted entries focused on this year’s theme, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.” The entries ranged from writing, coloring and art mediums. A ceremony was held at the Oklahoma Judicial Center on April 2 for first-place winners. Those earning second place or an honorable mention were honored in their home county with the help of their county bar association. See the names of all the winners and their winning entries online at //www.okbar.org/lawday or in this issue.

For the 43rd year, we are organizing the Ask A Lawyer community service project, providing free answers to Oklahomans’ legal questions. This year’s project will be Thursday, May 2. Oklahomans will have the option to email askalawyer@okbar.org with their question or call the toll-free hotline to speak with an attorney.

Participating in Ask A Lawyer is a great way for all Oklahoma lawyers to celebrate Law Day. This annual event gives us the opportunity to provide a much-needed community service while promoting a positive public image of lawyers and the OBA.

Oklahoma and Tulsa County lawyers will work together to staff the statewide toll-free hotline from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For other counties, the Law Day Committee works with each county’s Law Day chairperson to establish a network of local county phone numbers in addition to the statewide number. Volunteer lawyers in each participating county staff phones at their local location for a predetermined time period and the numbers are advertised while the Ask A Lawyer TV program is airing.

Anywhere you live or work, your help is needed to make this community service project a success. It takes a total of 30 attorneys for each two-hour shift to fully staff the statewide number. That effort, combined with the local county bars and those answering email questions, creates a huge need for lawyers to step forward.

To volunteer, contact your local county Law Day chairperson, listed in this issue or online at www.okbar.org/lawday.

Chief Justice Noma Gurich is continuing the OBA Law Day tradition of issuing a Law Day Directive, encouraging courts to host Law Day events or to visit schools to speak on the role of the judiciary. Gov. Kevin Stitt has also signed a proclamation designating May 2 as Law Day in Oklahoma.

We urge you to participate by volunteering for the Ask A Lawyer program or by contacting your local county bar and participating in the many activities occurring throughout the state. We are always seeking interested lawyers to get involved in the Law Day Committee and will very soon be planning next year’s activities. Please let me or Committee Vice Chair Ed Wunch know if you are available to lend your expertise. Contact us: Kara Pratt at kpratt@barberbartz.com; or Ed Wunch at ed.wunch@laok.org.

Kara Pratt is a partner at Barber & Bartz in Tulsa. She primarily practices family law. She currently serves on the OBA House of Delegates, as the Law Day Committee chair and is active in the Family Law Section. She is a 2011 graduate of Regent University School of Law.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 90 pg. 6 (April 2019)