Governance & Membership

President's Message - January 2021

Kudos to Members for Showing Empathy and Compassion

By Mike Mordy

I want to thank Susan Shields for her hard work this past year and for “watching our backs.” Susan, along with Executive Director John Morris Williams, showed the relevancy of the OBA this past year, especially when she and John made sure that Gov. Stitt included the legal profession as being “critical,” in his Amended Executive Order entered on March 25, 2020. You will remember Gov. Stitt issued his original Executive Order No. 2020-7 on March 24, 2020, declaring a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ordered effective midnight of that day that all businesses not identified as critical, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, be closed until April 16, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not declared the practice of law as critical. I witnessed the hard work of the OBA leadership in making sure we were included in the governor’s Executive Order on March 25, 2020, as “critical,” and therefore exempt from the closing order. None of us needed to be further subjected to financial upheaval by not being allowed an exemption from closure.

I do not want to belabor the COVID issue, however, I would like to commend Oklahoma attorneys and the judiciary in showing empathy, compassion and loyalty to each other this past year in working through a difficult situation. Myself, and members of my office, have been the recipient of this understanding, and I hope we extended the same courtesy to others.

I received a phone call in March, after the COVID cases began to rapidly increase, from an attorney who is a friend and acquaintance with whom I have had cases but had not talked to in over a year. I realized during the conversation he had not called me to discuss a case or a legal matter, and at the end of the conversation he told me he was calling various attorneys around the state he knew just to check on their well-being. This encouraged me to extend the same kindness to a couple of other attorneys, which I think surprised all of us.

I also received unsolicited judicial understanding and accommodations. I received a call from a judge’s bailiff in June who told me I did not need to make a two-hour trip to appear at a hearing on an unopposed motion I filed, but rather I could email a proposed order, which the judge would enter and return a filed-stamped copy. A law partner of mine received an email on a recent Sunday from a judge who told him it was not necessary that he appear for a hearing on a motion for a default judgment in a foreclosure action where no objection had been filed. I was allowed to appear virtually in a hearing to appoint a receiver and have been allowed to call a witness virtually because she was concerned for her health in appearing in a courthouse.

I mention all of this because I want to acknowledge that during this pandemic, we have shown we are loyal to each other and are loyal to our profession and association. We have shown compassion and understanding towards each other when our façade does not have that appearance. It has been said you can judge the character of a person by how he or she treats those who can do nothing for them in return. We often do that for some we periodically help on a pro bono basis, but we don’t always show that towards each other on a regular basis. I believe we have shown the depth of our character by how we have treated each other this past year during the COVID pandemic.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 92 (January 2021)