Oklahoma Bar Journal

Bar Foundation News | Meet 2023 OBF President Judge Deanna Hartley-Kelso


Oklahoma Bar Foundation 2023 Judge Deanna Hartley-Kelso

Law school: Tulsa University College of Law

Graduation year: 1993

Current Position: Chickasaw Nation district judge and assistant professor of business administration at East Central University

Location: Most days I can be found in Ada, either at the Chickasaw Courthouse or on campus at ECU. On a really good day, I can be found in Roger Mills County on our family farm.

Why did you decide to be a lawyer?

Perry Mason and Harper Lee are primarily to blame. My father was also a strong influence. He worked as a labor contract negotiator in the automotive industry.

What is one thing you’re glad you tried but would never do again?

A huge, multistory waterslide.

Are there any social norms that completely baffle you?

Yes, there are probably many. I really like the line from Ted Lasso, where he’s just about to win the dart game and proposes that people should be curious instead of judgmental.

What is your biggest pet peeve with modern technology?

I have made peace with most of my technology-related anxieties as a result of using Zoom during COVID for both the district court docket and classes at the university. However, the sense that one can never really escape constant electronic contact can be tiring. Also, I occasionally suffer from breaking news fatigue syndrome.

What is on your bucket list?

Probably like most people, I’d like to have more time for fun with family and friends. I’d like to travel more. I’ve also often thought it might be interesting to assemble the stories of female lawyers over a range of different generations (I’ve heard a lot of crazy stories over the years).

Explain the leadership roles you hold in professional and/or community settings and why these responsibilities are important to you.

As a Chickasaw lawyer, I have been so blessed to have a front-row seat for much of the development of our tribal government and the growth of business operations over the last 20 years. It is important to me to be a part of an organization moving forward in pursuit of positive solutions to societal challenges.

As a university professor, I enjoy the teaching process and continue to be motivated by the positive impact it can create in the lives of others. Many of my students are first-generation college students – I was a first gen as well. I really enjoy that connection with my students.

What would you tell current law students and young associates about the importance of professional and civic responsibility?

There is nothing more rewarding than using your education and training to help others. In helping others, you will embark on new adventures, make new friends and find purpose in your work.

What are your goals as 2023 OBF board president?

I plan to continue to facilitate growth for the OBF endowments, increase public awareness about our mission and increase our connections with underserved communities all over Oklahoma.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 1 (January 2023)