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Director Nikki Edwards lends expertise to United Way Board Serve class

Nikki Edwards, Director in Phillips Murrah’s Family Law Practice, recently spoke to United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Board Serve 2021 Class on behalf of Positive Tomorrows, an organization she’s been active with for more than 20 years.

susan agel and nikki edwards

Director Nikki Edwards (right) addresses United Way’s 2021 Board Serve class alongside Susan Agel, President/CEO or Positive Tomorrows.

“When Susan Agel, President/CEO of Positive Tomorrows, asked me to join her as a presenter at the Board Serve Class, I didn’t hesitate,” Edwards said. “Susan and I shared an interactive discussion about board duties, fundraising, and conflicts of interest.”

The Board Serve program hosts expert-led sessions to teach leadership skills, governance, nonprofit law, and other skills to future board members of nonprofit agencies in the central Oklahoma area. Applicants for the program have the opportunity to be placed on a United Way partner agency’s board for at least one year.

“We were asked to elaborate on Positive Tomorrow’s highly successful capital campaign, raising over $15 million, which funded the new, state-of-the-art school building,” Edwards said. “United Way of Central Oklahoma has been a critical partnership to so many community agencies, including Positive Tomorrows, which could not survive without their financial support.”

Development for Positive Tomorrows’ new facility initiated in 2018 after meeting its fundraising goal and opened in December 2019.

Cassity B. Gies, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, is a current member in the 2021 Board Serve Class.

“I practice alongside Cassity everyday, and it was meaningful for me to interact with her in a different professional capacity,” Edwards said. “Mentorship and community service are personally so satisfying, so I was grateful for the opportunity to help educate our future Oklahoma community leaders and appreciate our law firm supporting Cassity’s desire to spend some of her time in this way.”

Visit United Way of Central Oklahoma’s website for more information on the Board Serve program’s mission.

Oklahoma medical marijuana license holders could face custody issues

medical marijuana custody issues graphic

By Cassity B. Gies

On June 26, 2018, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, legalizing cultivation, use, and possession of medical marijuana. Almost three years after passing with 57% of voter support, our state struggles to manage the competing interests surrounding a legal concept colored with controversial opinions, long standing prejudices, and discriminatory undertones that linger in the air every bit as noticeable as the smell of marijuana smoke, itself.

Phillips Murrah family law attorney Cassity Giles

Cassity practices family law including divorce and separation, custody, and child support issues.

Far from a settled issue, the debate surrounding the medicinal value of the marijuana plant carries hundreds of years of societal and legal baggage, which complicates the implementation of Oklahoma’s newest industry.

Anticipating the gamut of opinions surrounding this controversial plant, anti-discrimination laws approved both by voters in the original ballot initiative and again by lawmakers in the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Use and Patient Protection Act (more commonly known as the Unity Bill), aim to protect patients and license holders from foreseen prejudices. However, when bumping up against 120 years of court decisions regarding marijuana as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug, akin to the likes of heroin, frankly, the reality of our state’s anti-discrimination protections should make Oklahoma patient card holders, especially those with families and children, nervous.

The Oklahoma Public Health Code, 63 O.S. § 42(D), reads “No medical marijuana license holder may be denied custody of or visitation or parenting time with a minor, and there is no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this law unless the persons behavior creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor.”

Our family law practice handles medicinal marijuana issues on a weekly basis now. The impact of holding a medical marijuana card varies according to every situation, and multiple factors affect the extent that a patient card can complicate a custody decision.

Judges vary in their attitudes towards medical marijuana. Some attribute its uses to the likes of any other legal prescription. Others take a stricter stance, opposing its use by any person providing care for children, regardless of prescription. Clients should be fully informed that marijuana consumption during these early years of implementing its legality can disadvantage a marijuana patient if he or she comes up against judicial disfavor.

I have heard attorneys openly warned from the bench that, regardless of how the law reads, any consumption of marijuana by a parent will be enough for that judge to presume the parent is under the influence while parenting a child, and therefore endangering the child. While this may seem to cut directly against 63 O.S. 42D, judges are ultimately charged with determining the best interests of children during custody decisions, and the deference awarded to their judicial determination provides wide latitude.

One straight-shooting guardian ad litem candidly told me that if their office learns a client has a marijuana card and that client resides in certain rural jurisdictions, the first piece of advice given to those parents is to surrender their prescription and forfeit their medical marijuana license because they will instantly be disfavored by the court.

The more moderate and more widely held attitude towards medicinal marijuana use and child custody decisions examines the facts of a case and looks for a nexus between a parties’ marijuana use and activity that threatens to harm the child. Is a parent exposing the child to marijuana? Is the child able to access it? Are the parents subjecting the child to secondhand exposure? Practicing in family law requires understanding that multiple global perceptions shape custody decisions and, as in all custody considerations, the specific facts at hand will affect the outcome of the case.

When a parent finds themselves googling “marijuana and child custody decisions,” litigation is already at an increased risk of conflict, and understanding that complication starts with understanding how to frame the divisive issues at hand and the rules of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA). Attorneys in this field should know how to craft their case when marijuana issues are present, and, remarkably, this area of law often gets glanced over by attorneys declining to study this nuance.

It surprises me how few family law attorneys have studied the OMMA regulations and are admittingly unfamiliar with the impact that they have on child custody issues. A common example is Okla. Admin. Code § 310:681-5-17, amended last fall, authorizing non-licensed minors to enter a licensed cannabis premise when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Besides a thorough knowledge of cannabis laws, many attorneys have yet to dive into the evidentiary nuances that arise in these cases. For example, drug testing has been accepted for years amongst courts as forensic evidence, but a good attorney knows the limits of these tests. When the purpose of a drug test is to provide forensic evidence in a court of law, shockingly, the FDA does not regulate or review the processes and procedures for drug testing facilities providing forensic results. This surprises people to hear and causes a good attorney to slow down and learn a little cannabis chemistry.

Having a relationship with experts who can support or discredit a disputed drug test can crucially benefit your client’s case. Most of our local courts require education in understanding the limitations of a drug test. Understanding laboratory inconsistencies, chain of custody arguments, and scholarly research illuminating faulty processes helps sort through blatantly false results which, disappointingly, circulate in courtrooms everywhere.

As soon as a prospective client shares that they hold a medicinal marijuana license, or that opposing party holds a license, the attorney should recognize this complication and advise their client of the additional work that could likely accompany their case. With the Oklahoma cannabis industry blazing ahead into what many people consider a twenty-first century land rush, the accompanying fallout affecting family law should not be taken lightly.


For more information on how the information in this article may impact you, please call 405.606.4744 or email Cassity B. Gies.

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Phillips Murrah voted 2020 Reader’s Choice Best Local Law Firm

The Oklahoman newspaper’s readers named Phillips Murrah law firm a winner of Readers’ Choice Awards in two categories for 2020.

Phillips Murrah P.C. was voted Best Local Law Firm, and Director Elizabeth K. Brown was chosen as Best Business Attorney.

Remaining nominees from the Firm were voted into the Top 3 of their respective categories:

Readers of The Oklahoman chose nominees in May and voted on winners in June.

The winners were recognized at the Readers’ Choice event on Aug. 27.

Dealing with domestic violence in divorce proceedings

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 20, 2020.


Molly Tipton

Molly Tipton is an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Molly E. Tipton

Domestic violence. In the context of divorce proceedings, these notorious words too often either fly under the radar or are misunderstood and improperly handled. This highlights the importance of training for those who work in the legal system to recognize the signs of domestic violence, especially since it is a factor that may not present apparent evidence such as physical injuries.

At a recent Family Law lunch-and-learn, Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals Judge Barbara Swinton presented on the topic of domestic violence. The first question raised was, “Can we please call it something else, like domestic terrorism or domestic abuse?”

This question raises an excellent point, as not all domestic violence is physical. Emotional abuse, for example, rises to the level of domestic violence and is a consideration at hearings on victim protection orders and divorce hearings. Think along the lines of stalking, such as placing a GPS tracking device in an ex-spouse’s vehicle. This activity could be considered domestic violence and can amount to one spouse being banned from visitation privileges with minor children.

Many of the judges across the state of Oklahoma already participate in domestic violence training. Attorneys can also receive similar training with the Oklahoma Guardian ad Litem Institute. As a result of proper training, attorneys and judges are able to properly recognize the signs and get those experiencing divorce the appropriate care and treatment they need.

This need for clarity about domestic violence also applies to clients, many of whom are unaware of the helpful and free services of Palomar, located in Midtown Oklahoma City, or of the YWCA. Both of these organizations offer victim services and resources and can provide an advocate to appear in the courtroom to protect victims of domestic violence.

Further, for attorneys representing perpetrators of domestic violence, those clients also benefit from help and guidance. For such persons, there are batterer’s intervention programs across the state that provide assessment and counseling services.

Family law attorneys often find themselves on both ends of the spectrum – sometimes representing a victim and other times a perpetrator. Therefore, it is vital to the safety, well-being and mental health of clients to be able to recognize signs of domestic violence. The better Oklahoma’s attorneys become at recognizing the signs of domestic violence – even those that are not physical in nature – the better we can help our clients and community.

Molly Tipton is a family law attorney at the law firm of Phillips Murrah in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma child support payments based on several variables

A headshot of Robert K. Campbell, a lawyer focused in the area of family law.

Robert K. Campbell’s legal practice is focused in the area of family law, specifically concentrated in matters of divorce, legal separation and custody issues.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Robert K. Campbell answers questions about the basics of arranging and handling Oklahoma child support.

Who pays child support in a divorce proceeding?

Oklahoma law requires both parents to provide financial support for their children during a divorce. That being said, typically it is one parent paying the other parent. There are, however, situations wherein neither parent may owe the other parent child support.

How is the amount of child support calculated?

The child support amount is calculated based upon the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines. The Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines will calculate the child support obligation of each parent.

What does the Oklahoma child support calculation take into consideration when determining the amount of child support?

There are several variables that go into the Oklahoma Child Support Guideline calculation. The primary variables determine the base child support amount consist of the parties’ gross monthly income, the number of minor children of the parties, and the number of overnights each parent has with the children. There are other variables that can be taken into consideration. A common example of these are health insurance premiums and child care costs.

What is considered gross income for child support purposes?

Oklahoma’s definition of gross income is broad and intended to include earned income and passive income. Gross income consists of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, bonuses, etc. Passive income can include dividends, pensions, rent, interest income, trust income, gifts, gambling winnings, lottery winnings, etc.

If both parents agree, can the child support agreement differ from the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines calculations?

Typically, an agreed amount other than the guidelines will likely be approved if it is in the best interest of the minor child and the amount of support indicated by the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances; both parties are represented by counsel and have agreed to a different amount; or one party is represented by counsel and the deviation benefits the unrepresented party.

How long does a parent have to pay child support?

In Oklahoma, the law typically provides that a child is entitled to support by the parents until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates high school, whichever occurs later; however, it shall not extend beyond the age of 20. There are certain situations where the law may provide support to an adult child with a disability beyond the age of majority. If you are paying support for more than one child, your payment amount does not drop automatically when one child no longer qualifies for support. You must take affirmative steps to recalculate future support for the remaining child or children and ask the court to enter a revised support order. When the last child no longer qualifies for child support, the support obligation ends if there is no past due support owed.

Can child support be modified?

Yes. In Oklahoma, either parent may request a modification of the amount of child support based upon a “material change in circumstances.” The increase or decrease in either parent’s income may constitute a material change in circumstances warranting a modification.

What happens if a parent who is ordered to pay child support fails to pay?

The parent who fails or refuses to pay their child support obligation can be cited for indirect contempt of court, which if found guilty can result in a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Additionally, state licenses can be revoked, suspended or not renewed.

 

Robert K. Campbell is a family law attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Journal Record awards Phillips Murrah law firm top Reader Rankings honors

PM Reader Rankings attendees 2019

Phillips Murrah attorneys and executive leaders attend The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings Gala where the Firm won in five categories.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce our Firm received top honors in five of The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings categories.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in our community for the challenging work our attorneys do every day,” Marketing Director Dave Rhea said.

Phillips Murrah received awards for Best Civil Litigation Firm, Best Family Law Firm, Best Intellectual Property Firm, Best Malpractice Firm and Best Overall Leadership at Reader Rankings Gala on June 20.

“We take pride in providing exceptional legal services while striving to provide a positive, balanced atmosphere for our attorneys and staff,” said Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner.

The Reader Rankings program recognizes and celebrates the achievements of Oklahoma businesses and entrepreneurs.

Journal Record readers nominate and vote for the best businesses and organizations across a wide variety of categories encompassing the areas of construction and design, entertainment, finance/accounting, general business, health care, higher education, hospitality, legal services, real estate and information technology.

To learn more about the workplace culture and opportunities at Phillips Murrah, visit our Careers pagehttps://phillipsmurrah.com/careers.

OCU Law names Ybarra 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna

Monica Ybarra Web

Monica Y. Ybarra is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on representing individuals and companies in wide range of commercial litigation matters. She also practices in the area of family law, including litigation, custody issues and valuation issues.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Family Law attorney and Oklahoma City University School of Law Class of 2014 alumna, will be honored as Outstanding Young Alumna at the OCU Law Awards Dinner.

“These awards were created in the late 1990s to honor individuals, alumni and non-alumni, in the legal community who have exemplified themselves as champions of the legal profession, established themselves as a community advocate, and supported the endeavors of OCU Law,” said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations at OCU Law. “To be a recipient of an award demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their career and we hope this shines a light on their good works.”

The 2019 OCU Law Awards Dinner will be hosted at 6 PM on April 6 at OCU School of Law.

“Working with Monica, both as a Phillips Murrah team member and now in our mutual roles for our alma mater OCU School of Law, is a real gift,” said Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and OCU Law Dean. “Monica wonderfully embodies the exceptional brain and heart you want in a colleague, a leader and a friend.”

This year’s awards are especially important as they signify the first major event of the OCU Law Alumni Association after being re-established in the fall of 2018 under the direction of Dean Jim Roth, she said.

“As a classmate of Monica’s and a member of the OCU Law Class of 2014, it is an honor to be able to work with her as the Chair of the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Rodriguez said. “Monica brings an excitement to her work and motivates those around her.

“As the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Monica has exemplified significant achievements in the practice of law since graduation, and is a wonderful representation of the hard work and servant leadership mentality that OCU Law instills.”

Ybarra joined the university’s Alumni Association in September 2018 to oversee development and progress of the organization and was elected Chair by the Board of Directors soon after.

“Dean Roth’s vision to reestablish the OCU Law Alumni Association was one of his top priorities upon assuming his role as the new Dean,” Ybarra said. “He brought together a group of interested alums to serve on the Board of Directors and they elected me as Chair at our inaugural meeting.

“So, I’ve hit the ground running in that role since day one.”

This first year has been focused on getting the word out about the Alumni Association, building partnerships with community businesses for the rewards program, setting goals and bringing the Association’s vision into focus, she said.

“OCU Law has produced some very dynamic leaders and so many of our alums are doing great things all over the world, so it is incredibly humbling to receive this award,” Ybarra said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be recognized in this way.

“I hope that my role and involvement with OCU Law will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the law school. I enjoy helping with local and national recruiting, and certainly enjoy contributing to the law school experience of OCU Law students in any way that I can.”

To learn more about OCU Law and the Alumni Association, click here.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for December 2018

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for December 2018.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled,” Donna said. “I feel truly blessed to work for such a great company that I consider a part of my family.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Congratulations to Donna Anderson, a skilled paralegal, working with our legal team to provide top-notch client service to our often anxious family law clients,” Director Nikki Edwards said. “Clients, support staff and all of the attorneys Donna works with describe her similarly as ‘the calm in the storm’.

“We are so happy that Donna deservingly received the December Employee of the Month recognition. Donna’s insight and dedication are evident in all she does.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Donna chose Positive Tomorrows.

“We are so grateful that Donna and Phillips Murrah P.C. have chosen to support Positive Tomorrows in this way,” said Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows President and Principal. “As Oklahoma’s only elementary school and social service agency specifically serving children and families experiencing homelessness, we rely on a generous community to keep our doors open.

“Gifts like this mean that we can continue to provide life-changing services to some of our communities most vulnerable little ones.”

Positive Tomorrows recently broke ground on a new facility in Oklahoma City, and Phillips Murrah has been a supporter of their mission for years.

“I believe children are our future, and the fact that Positive Tomorrows is trying to ensure their success makes this a worthy cause,” Donna said. “Many children would not have the simple pleasures of life such as a meal or a place where they feel safe if it were not for Positive Tomorrows.”

To learn more about Positive Tomorrows, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Director Nikki Edwards quoted by Journal Record on divorce settlements

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

A change in tax deductions regarding alimony has lead to an influx of clients looking to expedite their divorces.

Nikki Edwards, Phillips Murrah Director and Family Law Attorney, was quoted in a Journal Record article addressing the circumstances agreeing with Ron Little, McAfee & Taft Family Law Attorney.

Phillips Murrah Family Practice Law Director Nikki Edwards said she’s seeing the same issues from her clients as Little. She has clients who are trying to get the agreement finalized in a few weeks, while others are willing to push it into 2019.

“It was a surprising change because it’s been well-settled for many years,” she said. “The impact will be to restructure the settlement negotiations.”

She said from a practitioner’s standpoint, the change gets back to why alimony was created, which is predicated on one’s ability to pay versus one’s need.

“(The new law) will take out the thoughts of paying more because of the tax benefit,” she said. “It takes out the incentives for both sides.”

Read the full article by The Journal Record here.

Highly litigated common law marriage still recognized in Oklahoma

I heard a song the other day by Pistol Annies called “Got My Name Changed Back.” The lyrics include the line, “it takes a judge to get married, takes a judge to get divorced.” Well, if you live in Oklahoma, only half of these lyrics is correct. Oklahoma is one of only eleven states that currently recognize common law marriages.

Oklahoma family law attorney Robert K. Campbell discusses common law marriage.

Robert K. Campbell’s legal practice is focused in the area of family law, specifically concentrated in matters of divorce, legal separation and custody issues. Click photo to visit his attorney profile.

Unlike a traditional marriage, entering into a common law marriage does not require a judge or minister, a marriage license or a marriage certificate. A common law marriage is formed when the minds of the parties meet in consent at the same time. The only requirements are that two people, who are capable of entering into a marriage, agree to become spouses and thereafter maintain the marital relationship.

People often tell me that they have been living with their significant other for so many years, and they ask if that makes them common law married. Typically, if you are simply living together, you probably are not common law married.

Elements of a common law marriage include:

  • An actual and mutual agreement to be spouses
  • A permanent relationship
  • An exclusive relationship
  • Cohabitation as spouses
  • Holding themselves out to the public as married

The concept of being common law married seems simple enough, yet it is a highly litigated area in divorce and probate matters. You never know what piece of evidence will convince a court that a couple is either common law married or not.

To establish the existence or non-existence of a common law marriage, the evidence can include, but is not limited to, tax returns, holiday and anniversary cards, deeds, insurance forms, rings, family holiday pictures, social media posts, name tags and estate planning documents.

Tax returns, in particular, are very helpful pieces of evidence, because whether the parties file as a married couple or as single persons, they are attesting to their marital status to the government under penalty of perjury.

Finally, it is important to know how to dissolve a common law marriage. While Oklahoma recognizes common law marriage, there is no such thing as a common law divorce. If you are common law married, then as the Pistol Annies’ song correctly states, “it takes a judge to get divorced.”

Director presents for OU Women and Gender Studies class

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and member of the Family Law Practice Group, presented to the Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Oklahoma on Oct. 23.

The class is comprised of mostly seniors and students looking to attend law school. Her presentation focused on custody and the impact of gender on custody disputes.

Edwards advised that Oklahoma law has enacted statutory measures to prevent gender bias in these matters, lending the example that in divorce cases, mothers’ rights are no greater than fathers’ rights under the law.

However, the issue in same-sex divorces as with any other divorce will focus on the best interest of the child, she said.

Edwards previously served on the Advisory Board for the Women and Gender Studies program and continues to lend support.

To learn more about OU’s Women and Gender Studies class, click here.

Family law attorney leads conference for Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) at Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute's first annual conference.

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) with attendees of Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute’s 1st Annual Champions for Children Conference.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, helped orchestrate the 1st Annual Champions for Children conference for the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute on Oct. 27.

A guardian ad litem is often an integral part of a family law case involving custody, visitation, and other child-related issues. However, it is often an added expense that the parties, especially low-income families, cannot afford, Ybarra said.

“I became involved when Sharon Byers, Executive Director for the Institute, asked me to assist her in coming up with ideas for CLEs,” Ybarra said. “One thing led to another, and the vision for a GAL-specific conference came into focus.

“This has never been done in Oklahoma, and we weren’t sure how it would be received; however, it was a huge success.”

The Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute was formed to provide this essential service to low-income families. It is a non-profit organization, and one of the ways the Institute raises money is to put on CLEs, or Continuing Legal Education seminars.

“This was one of our most successful CLEs based on the number of attendees,” Byers said. “We are grateful for Monica for that and the Firm for supporting this social event.

“Without people like Monica and Phillips Murrah, we wouldn’t be able to sustain and provide services for the children of Oklahoma and families that can’t afford it.”

More than 40 attorneys and law students interested in becoming GALs attended the first annual conference.

“I gave a presentation, along with Reagan Barham, another Oklahoma City attorney, called ‘Know your Judge: Judicial Expectations and Preferences’ in which we educated attendees about what judges want to see in a GAL’s representation,” Ybarra said.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and Member of the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group, also presented, showing a cross examination of a GAL in a mock trial setting.

“Monica was instrumental in getting it done,” Byers said. “She is a workhorse and went above and beyond to organize the whole thing. Both Nikki and Monica did an excellent job and had valuable information to contribute, and we are very appreciative.”

For more information on the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute, click here.

Sheets, Ybarra earn Journal Record’s Leadership in Law awards

law day robert n sheets monica y ybarra leadership in law

Robert N. Sheets and Monica Y. Ybarra hold their Leadership in Law awards from the Journal Record.

Director Robert N. Sheets and Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra were presented with the Journal Record’s Leadership in Law award on May 1 at the Oklahoma County Bar Association’s annual Law Day Luncheon.

Oklahoma County District Judge Trevor Pemberton and Attorneys Judy Hamilton Morse (Oklahoma City) and M. David Riggs (Tulsa) were also recipients of this year’s Leadership in Law Award.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition,” Ybarra said. “The list of honorees is really impressive, and I am humbled to be recognized along with these amazing attorneys that I look up to.”

Ybarra joined the Firm in 2014 and represents clients in the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group.

“As a young associate, it can be difficult to juggle work and family obligations and find time for community work, but community work and civic engagement is a vital part of connecting to the city and the people who live here and opens my eyes to the issues facing our community,” she said. “Finding ways to serve and engage not only enriches my life and experiences, but I hope it blesses others.

“Additionally, I have greatly benefited from the community service of others throughout my life and my education, so finding ways to serve feels like I’m giving back what has so generously been given to me. The OCBA provides so many opportunities to serve, both in the legal profession and the greater OKC community. I am grateful to be a part of such a service-oriented organization and I look forward to finding more opportunities to be useful and to serve.”

Sheets, one of the Firm’s founders, represents both privately-held and public companies in the Firm’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group. This is the second time the Journal Record has recognized him with the Leadership in Law award.

“I was moved when I received the Leadership in Law award from the Journal Record in 2008, and I am honored even more so to be recognized with this award for a second time 10 years later,” Sheets said. “It’s a real testament to the work I’m permitted to do in the legal field and within the community, and I appreciate those who see me fit to hold such an honor.

“My position has afforded me the opportunity to become active in the community, specifically with the Oklahoma County Bar Association and the Voices for Children committee. Thank you to the OCBA for allowing me to give back in a meaningful way, and thank you again to the Journal Record for the acknowledgment.”

Phillips Murrah Director Nicholle Jones Edwards was honored with the award in 2017.

Directors volunteer at annual Westminster fundraiser

Marc and Nikki Edwards and Laurin and Nicholas Hickman attend a Westminster School event.

Nikki and Marc Edwards, Directors at Phillips Murrah, gave their time to help make WestxWestminster, an annual fundraising auction hosted by Westminster School, a success.

Arriving early to the April 1 event at the Bricktown Events Center, Nikki and Marc volunteered at the check-in table and worked a games table throughout the night.

“While I support many Oklahoma City and Oklahoma state causes, I’m always happy to lend my time and resources to this great cause and this top-notch school,” Nikki said.

The Edwards have an 8-year-old son who attends Westminster School in Oklahoma City.

At Phillips Murrah, Nikki heads up the Family law Practice Group where she provides objective, compassionate and experienced guidance in domestic matters that lead to separation or divorce and other family law-related matters. Marc, who leads the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, represents business and public entities in a broad range of litigation, administrative proceedings and strategic legal matters, with an emphasis on public utility, public pension, governmental and administrative laws.

While not practicing law, the Edwards’ spend their free time volunteering, attending field trips, and supporting the school.

To learn ways to support Westminster, click here.

PM Attorney graduates Leadership OKC LOYAL Program

Monica Y. Ybarra

Every year, approximately two hundred of Oklahoma City’s rising stars vie for a chance to be a member of Leadership Oklahoma City’s Linking OKC’s Young Adult Leaders (LOYAL) Program.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra was selected to participate in this prestigious program as a member of LOYAL Class XII. The Firm is pleased to announce Ybarra graduated from the program last week and is officially part of the Leadership Oklahoma City family.

The LOYAL Program focuses on enhancing personal leadership skills and cultivating community leadership skills. During the seven-month program, participants have unique opportunities to learn leadership skills from Oklahoma’s most influential and accomplished business people, public servants, and non-profit managers.

“Participating in LOYAL has been one of my most rewarding Oklahoma experiences,” Ybarra said. “The program offered me a chance to increase my leadership intelligence and connect to the community in so many ways.

“This program is about so much more than networking—it’s about helping motivated individuals become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Participants gain insight into topics such as board skills, human resources, public speaking, non-profit finances, ethics, and much more. Additionally, Leadership Action Projects afford participants an opportunity to apply their skills and talents to tackle substantive issues in our community.

“At Phillips Murrah P.C. we take pride in being a strategic partner for our clients and for our community,” she said. “I am very fortunate to work for an organization that not only supports my efforts to become a better attorney but also a better Oklahoman.”

Ybarra is a litigation attorney who practices family law. She represents clients in all areas of domestic and family law matters including, divorce actions, custody matters, guardianships, prenuptial agreements, and paternity actions.

Other Phillips Murrah graduates of Leadership Oklahoma City programs include Jim Roth, Signature Program Class XXII, and G. Calvin Sharpe, Signature Program Class XXIII.

Online Evidence: Digital discovery during divorce

This Gavel to Gavel legal column was originally published in The Journal Record on Jan 28, 2015.
By Nicholle Jones Edwards. View her attorney profile here.


Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards

“Fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual,” Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren prophetically stated in 1963.

Today, people use email, text messaging and social networking sites more than ever. Digital activities of a couple going through a divorce can become valuable evidence when determining issues such as parental fitness, financial support or the division of assets and debt. A history of social media use can be a virtual character witness – for good or ill.

It should also be no surprise that public posts on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be examined by attorneys involved in the discovery process. However, texts and so-called private messages on social networking platforms can also be obtained by attorneys and become evidence in a divorce.

Deleting posts, messages and/or texts can also invite trouble. Procedurally, a divorce begins with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which includes an Automatic Temporary Injunction.

The injunction includes the following language that specifically prohibits either party from deleting social media information, text messages or emails during the divorce process: “Intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying the tangible property of the parties, or of either of them, specifically including but not limited to, any electronically stored materials, electronic communications, social network data, financial records, and any document that represents or embodies anything of value.”

For those inclined to delete embarrassing messages or image transmissions, the best policy is to talk to their attorney about it so preparations can be made to address the matter.

Some general guidelines for communicating digitally during a divorce: If you want to communicate in a way that is truly private, talk in person. One-on-one verbal communication in a private location is the only real private way to interact.

Be aware that many digital devices and social media sites use geographical data. When you post or tweet, be aware that you may also be publishing your location. To avoid this, turn off the geolocation option on your sites and mobile devices.

When you email, text or post messages to social networks, assume that all of those messages will be seen by the judge. Especially refrain from sending or posting anything that is motivated by frustration or anger.

Phillips Murrah announces new Directors for 2015

2015 Phillips Murrah new directors

From L: Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle

Tom Wolfe, managing director at Oklahoma City law firm, Phillips Murrah, announced that attorneys Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle have been elected by the firm’s shareholders as new directors. Their appointments were made effective January 1, 2015, bringing the total number of directors in the firm to 32.

Edwards’ law practice focuses on family law, general civil litigation and appellate matters. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Miller practices in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group representing both employers and employees in a variety of discrimination and employment disputes. Her practice also involves the representation of national and international corporations in intellectual property disputes.

Kreth is a commercial litigator who represents financial institutions, handling matters such as foreclosures, bankruptcy and lender liability litigation. He also represents clients in a range of real property disputes.

Lisle is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in the representation of financial institutions in mortgage and commercial loan litigation and lender liability.