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Amendment sharpens valuable tool

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 24, 2017.


Hilary Hudson Clifton is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Hilary Hudson Clifton

The Oklahoma Open Records Act, Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 24A.1, et seq, has been in place since 1985, but its value as a tool for discovering information related to private parties can still go overlooked. A recent amendment to the act, which goes into effect on Nov. 1, further strengthens the measure, demonstrating the ongoing utility of citizen open records requests.

Often discussed in the context of government transparency, the Oklahoma Open Records Act also provides an avenue for litigators and potential litigants to obtain reliable information about private parties through relatively discreet and non-adversarial channels. Often, information like license and permit applications, safety inspection results, and communications between businesses and government employees are fair game to those who think to ask.

A generally straightforward measure, the act requires all public bodies and public officials to make their records available for inspection or copying. No formal written request is required, as the act requires public bodies to have a designated record custodian available at all times to release records during regular business hours.

The recent amendment to the act, passed via Senate Bill 191, further advances the act’s policy of speedy disclosure. The amendment requires any delay in providing access to records to be limited solely to the time required for preparing the requested documents and the avoidance of excessive disruptions of the public body’s essential functions, and states that simple records requests cannot be delayed pending the completion of more complex requests. These changes send a clear message that the act mandates not just transparency, but efficient and responsive transparency.

In litigation, discovery disputes are common and commonly reviled by judges and attorneys alike. The records custodian responding to your request, on the other hand, likely has no ax to grind. If a government agency might have the information you seek, try picking up the phone and finding out how helpful your local government employees can be. Keep in mind, however, as the act states, “persons who submit information to public bodies have no right to keep this information from public access.” For private parties divulging information to the government for business purposes, that’s a knife that cuts both ways.

Hilary A. Hudson is an attorney at Phillips Murrah and a member of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group.

Attorneys Hilary Hudson, Kendra Norman inducted into Order of the Coif

Kendra M. Norman and Hilary A. Hudson after being inducted into Order of the Coif.

Phillips Murrah Attorneys Hilary A. Hudson and Kendra M. Norman were inducted into the Order of the Coif at the University of Oklahoma College of Law’s Order of the Owl Dinner on March 6 at the Oklahoma Memorial Union.

“I’m very proud to be selected as a member of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Order of the Coif. It is such an honor, and I’m very excited about this achievement,” Norman said. “Being selected as a member of the Order of the Coif means always knowing that I did my best throughout law school.”

The Order of the Coif is a national law school honorary society founded to encourage scholarship and to advance the ethical standards of the profession. The Oklahoma chapter, chartered in 1925, may elect each fall from the graduating class — which includes all those graduating during the fall, spring and summer terms — those graduates who rank in the top 10 percent academically.

Each candidate elected to membership must be thought worthy of the honor in the opinion of the voting members of the Oklahoma chapter, according to the OU College of Law’s website.

“It’s a terrific honor to be inducted into The Order of the Coif,” Hudson said. “Law school was a rewarding experience, but it was also grueling.

“When you begin law school, you have no idea how your grades will turn out, so you just work as hard as you can and hope for the best. It’s great to have something like membership with The Order of the Coif to look to and remember what I accomplished. The induction is also a perfect opportunity to spend time with professors and peers and hear about the wonderful things the other inductees are accomplishing as new attorneys.”

Learn more about the Order of the Owl event here.

Phillips Murrah welcomes two new attorneys

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Attorney Hilary A. Hudson

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Hilary A. Hudson and Kendra M. Norman to our Firm.

Phillips Murrah welcomed Hudson to the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group as an associate attorney.

Hudson represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Kendra M. Norman

Attorney Kendra M. Norman

Norman has joined Phillips Murrah’s Transactional Practice Group as an associate attorney.

She represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Norman and Hudson are recent graduates of the University of Oklahoma School of Law.

Phillips Murrah attorneys and summer clerks visit nursing home

REZ Luau

From left: Marchi McCartney, Kendra Norman, Nancy Parrot, William Sobral, Hilary Hudson, Judge Patricia Parrish, Ray Zschiesche, Monica Ybarra, Travis Weedn and Chance Pearson.

Friday afternoon, Aug 7, the Oklahoma County Bar Association Community Service Committee had a Luau-themed party for the residents of the Edwards Redeemer Nursing Home.

Phillips Murrah attorneys Director Ray Zschiesche and Monica Ybarra were on hand to dance and visit with the Edwards Redeemer Nursing Home residents, along with our summer clerks, Hillary Hudson, Kendra Norman, Jace White and Ben McCaslin.