Oklahoma judicial complaints called highly secretive

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Thursday he would neither confirm nor deny whether he has filed a complaint of judicial misconduct against District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure.
By Randy Ellis and Nolan Clay Modified: September 3, 2010 at 8:13 am •  Published: September 3, 2010
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"The only thing that we're hoping for is just a little bit more leniency when the district attorney makes a recommendation to the judge."

Rice described his client as a "good kid who has never been in trouble before and hasn't been in trouble since."

Inquiries made public only if there's ouster

Anyone can file a complaint against a judge with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, Mitts said. The council also can initiate an investigation on its own.

"We will get complaints from people all across the country," he said. "We have gotten complaints in the past from private citizens, county officers, attorneys, judges, other public officials — there's no restriction."

Mitts said investigations by the council vary in length, depending on complexity, but he gave 60 days as an average.

After the council completes an investigation, it files a report with one of five entities.

Usually the report is filed with either the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court or the attorney general.

The council also has the option of filing a report with the House of Representatives, governor or the Oklahoma Bar Association, he said.

The recipient of the report reviews it and determines independently whether it believes judicial misconduct has occurred, Mitts said.

"If they do believe there has been misconduct sufficient to warrant removal, then they can file a petition with the Court on the Judiciary," he said.

"That court has the authority to remove a judge from office."

If a petition for removal is filed, the public becomes aware of the allegations against a judge because the petition is a public document, he said.

If the Council on Judicial Complaints or one of the reviewing entities believes misconduct has occurred, but it is not sufficient to warrant removal, those entities have the option of filing a report with the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The chief justice and Supreme Court don't have the authority to remove a judge but can impose lesser disciplinary measures, Mitts said.

"Their actions are confidential," he said.