NORMAN — A Cleveland County special judge is requiring offenders in aggravated drunken-driving cases to use a company that pays him and a business partner $2,321 per month in rent, The Oklahoman has learned.
“I have followed the rules,” Judge Steve Stice said Friday. “I have followed every rule that there is. I have disclosed everything to everyone. It's on my ethics reports. I'm not the only judge that owns real estate.”
Stice, 43, said he has been upfront about the lease of office space to Oklahoma Court Services Inc., a private company that supervises offenders on probation.
He said he disclosed the arrangement to his bosses, the elected district judges who hired him in 2010. He said he disclosed it also to Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn and to defense attorneys.
“It's all been out there,” he said.
Stice said he found a 2000 Oklahoma Judicial Ethics opinion that provides guidelines on how a judge can be a landlord at the same time. He said no one has asked him to recuse himself from a case because of these issues.
The Oklahoman learned of the lease arrangement from attorneys who are critical of it.
They declined to comment on the record.
The criticism comes at a time when the judge and district attorney are at odds over who should supervise offenders on probation for aggravated drunken driving.
Mashburn contends his own employees can provide the supervision in those misdemeanor cases.
Mashburn also said he also needs the $40 per month an offender pays for the supervision.
Mashburn said his office has lost about $100,000 in supervision fees since the judge started sending offenders in aggravated drunken-driving cases to the private company.
He said he worries about losing even more supervision fee money.
“I'd have to stop prosecution in lots of cases if I didn't have that money,” the district attorney said.
“Right now, it's aggravated DUIs. What is it tomorrow?”
The judge contends the key issue is public safety, and the private company provides the proper monitoring of the offenders that the law requires.
“I want them to have to see somebody at least once a month to determine whether or not this person is getting the counseling … taking drug tests … doing all the things that need to be done,” Stice said. “Because under the DA version, we wouldn't know until the end of the year.”