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Phillips Murrah announces 48 attorneys named to 2020 Best Lawyers list

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 48 of our attorneys have been named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2020 list in Oklahoma City.

2020 Best Lawyers – Lawyers of the Year

Douglas A. Branch – Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Susan E. Bryant – Securities Regulation

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Land Use and Zoning Law

Dawn M. Rahme – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law

Mary Holloway Richard – Health Care Law

Jim A. Roth – Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants

 

The Best Lawyers in America 2020

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Finance Law; Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Real Estate Law; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Susan E. Bryant – Securities Regulation

John M. Bunting – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law

Catherine L. Campbell – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Labor and Employment

A. Michelle Campney – Commercial Litigation

Michael D. Carter – Labor Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment; Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Rodney L. Cook – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law

Cody J. Cooper – Commercial Litigation

Bobby Dolatabadi – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Jason A. Dunn – Commercial Litigation

Joshua L. Edwards – Real Estate Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law; Family Law Arbitration

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law

Mark E. Golman – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

Lauren Barghols Hanna – Employment Law – Management; Litigation – Labor and Employment; Water Law

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Patrick L. Hullum – Commercial Litigation

Clayton D. Ketter – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation; Financial Services Regulation Law

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Commercial Transactions / UCC Law

Byrona J. Maule – Litigation – Labor and Employment

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Banking and Finance Law; Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Financial Services Regulation Law; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice; Real Estate Law

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Private Funds / Hedge Funds Law; Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation; Information Technology Law; Technology Law

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law; Financial Services Regulation Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Mary Holloway Richard – Health Care Law

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Energy Regulatory Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Insurance Law; Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Ellen K. Spiropoulos – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

D. Craig Story – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Amy D. White – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Oil and Gas Law; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Sheets presents on issues related to title opinions, examination

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the Firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Director Robert N. Sheets presented issues related to title examination and opinions on Dec. 13 for Continuing Education professionals.

Sheets spoke in morning and afternoon sessions at the National Business Institute’s seminar titled “Title Law in Oklahoma.”

His presentations, “The Process of Title Examination” and “Preparing the Title Opinion and Issues in Title Insurance,” covered record examination, proper procedures, execution defects and examination of the abstract of title for title examination issues and drafting/negotiating title insurance policies, the role of the state and governmental control for title opinion issues.

Those interested in registering can get more information at www.nbi-sems.com. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah announces 44 attorneys named to 2019 Best Lawyers list

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 44 of our attorneys have been named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2019 list in Oklahoma City.

2019 Best Lawyers – Lawyers of the Year

Douglas A. Branch – Venture Capital Law

Susan E. Bryant – Securities Regulation

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Natural Resources Law

Thomas G. Wolfe – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

 

The Best Lawyers in America 2019

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Susan E. Bryant – Securities Regulation

John M. Bunting – Insurance Law

Catherine L. Campbell – Commercial Litigation

Michael D. Carter – Labor Law – Management; Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Rodney L. Cook – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law

Bobby Dolatabadi – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Jason A. Dunn – Commercial Litigation

Joshua L. Edwards – Real Estate Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation

Mark E. Golman – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Patrick L. Hullum – Commercial Litigation

Clayton D. Ketter – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Commercial Transactions / UCC Law

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Banking and Finance Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice; Real Estate Law

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation; Technology Law

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Mary Holloway Richard – Health Care Law

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Energy Regulatory Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Ellen K. Spiropoulos – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

D. Craig Story – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Amy D. White – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Oil and Gas Law; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Director presents on issues related to real estate closings, ethics

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the Firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Director Robert N. Sheets will give a presentation on Sept. 14 for Continuing Education professionals on issues relating to real estate transactions.

Sheets will present at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the National Business Institute’s seminar titled “Handling Real Estate Transactions From Start to Finish.”

“For the morning presentation, I’ll be discussing issues that can arise when handling purchase contracts and sharing what sellers and buyers need to make sure is included in them, as well as what to look for with title examinations,” he said. “For the ethics presentation in the afternoon, I want to explore good faith requirements, trust accounts, and requirements of disclosures, and how to avoid conflicts of interest in these types of transactions.”

Those interested in registering can get more information at www.nbi-sems.com. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah announces 37 attorneys named to 2018 Best Lawyers list

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 37 of our attorneys have been named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2018 list in Oklahoma City.

The Best Lawyers in America 2018

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Rodney L. Cook – Insurance Law

Bobby Dolatabadi – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Jason A. Dunn – Commercial Litigation

Joshua L. Edwards – Real Estate Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Shannon K. Emmons – Commercial Litigation; Employment Law – Management; Employment Law – Individuals

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Commercial Transactions / UCC Law

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Banking and Finance Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Mary Holloway Richard – Health Care Law

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Energy Regulatory Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Ellen K. Spiropoulos – Corporate Law

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Phillips Murrah announces 35 attorneys named to 2017 Best Lawyers list

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 35 of our attorneys have been named to the 2017 Best Lawyers® list and seven of our attorneys are recognized as Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Oklahoma City.

2017 Best Lawyers – Lawyers of the Year

Douglas A. Branch – Venture Capital Law

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Shannon K. Emmons – Employment Law – Individuals

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Construction Law

Fred A. Leibrock – Litigation – Antitrust

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

2017 Best Lawyers

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Bobby Dolatabadi – Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Stephen W. Elliott – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Shannon K. Emmons – Commercial Litigation; Employment Law – Individuals

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

John D. Hastie – Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Ellen K. Spiropoulos – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Director presents on real estate surveying skills

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Director Robert N. Sheets will give a presentation on “Surveying Skills for the Real Estate Attorney” for Continuing Education professionals.

Sheets will present at 11:15 a.m. on June 8 at the National Business Institute’s seminar titled “Legal Descriptions, Title Insurance and Surveys in Real Estate Transactions Seminar.”

“The purpose of the seminar is legal matters involved in real estate transactions,” Sheets said. “I will be talking on things to look for in surveys and how they can affect the transaction.”

His presentation will cover a variety of elements of surveying including different types of surveys, potential issues, impacts on title, the review process, and preparation.

Those interested in registering can get more information at www.nbi-sems.com. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah announces 35 attorneys named to 2016 Best Lawyers list

Best Lawyers

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 35 of our attorneys have been named to the 2016 Best Lawyers® list and three of our attorneys are recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2016 in Oklahoma City.

 

The Best Lawyers in America 2016

Stephen W. Elliott – Litigation – Bankruptcy

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Land Use and Zoning Law

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

 

2016 Best Lawyers

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Bobby Dolatabadi – Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Thomas Elder Jr. – Commercial Litigation

Stephen W. Elliott – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Shannon K. Emmons – Commercial Litigation; Employment Law – Individuals

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

John D. Hastie – Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

 

 

Director Bob Sheets featured in article about nursing home arbitration

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Phillips Murrah Director Bob Sheets featured in the media as a source in a story by Oklahoma Watch investigative journalist, M. Scott Carter.

The story, titled “Price of Admission to Nursing Homes: No Lawsuits,” is about nursing homes in Oklahoma that require arbitration agreements as part of the admission process.

From the article:

Oklahoma City attorney Robert Sheets, who specializes in business litigation, said arbitration agreements prevent most appeals from going to courts and can prove less expensive for both parties.

“The idea is to have a method of resolving disputes that is not as formal as the court and not as expensive,” he said. “The theory is there won’t be as much discovery, which can be more expensive, and once an arbitrator makes a decision, it’s usually final. There is no appeal.”

Originally published on the Oklahoma Watch website, the article was picked up by both Oklahoma metro’s daily newspapers and by the Norman-based NPR station. See below for links:

Oklahoma Watch 
The Oklahoman
Tulsa World
KGOU/NPR

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit corporation that generates original content that is distributed by media partners around the state and through the Oklahoma Watch website and social media accounts. They collaborate with other news outlet and focus on data-driven journalism and other enterprising reporting that complements coverage in other Oklahoma and regional media.

 

Phillips Murrah celebrates Grand Opening of OCU Law School

OCU LAW GO 1

OKC mayor Mick Cornett speaks to the crowd in McLaughlin Hall.

On Friday, Mar. 27, Oklahoma City University School of Law held their grand opening ceremony in downtown Oklahoma City.

On hand for the event were Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, host of ABC’s hit show, The Bachelor/OCU Law alumnus Chris Harrison and others were on hand to welcome OCU to the Central Business District.

Phillips Murrah was excited to be a part of the grand opening events all week and we are proud to boast of Directors who are also OCU Law grads:

OCU LAW GO 2

Phillips Murrah Directors and OCU Law graduates Juston Givens and Jennifer Miller were in attendance at the Grand Opening ceremony.

Phillips Murrah is also proud to support the school and their great program as well as to have a new media-enabled conference room named for our firm.

We are excited about the beautiful restoration project and and eager to witness what the new location of the OCU School of Law adds to the vibrant downtown OKC culture. As mayor Cornett alluded to in his presentation, it is every metro central business district’s dream to have such an addition of bright, young, energetic people circulating through the shops and restaurants during the day.

Oklahoma City University School of Law is housed in the Central High School building located at NW 8 and Harvey, about 200 feet north of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

SCOTUS order to stay executions doesn’t change anything

shutterstock_lethal-injectionThe Supreme Court of the United States stay order blocking three pending executions in Oklahoma, handed down Jan. 28, doesn’t actually change anything, said Phillip Murrah Director and one of the firm’s founders, Robert N. Sheets.

While there is much interest and coverage of the motion, no decision has been made that will change how death sentences are carried out – other than a mandate to remain in place for the time being.

While the occurrence is quite interesting, it is simply an order to halt executions until the highest court of the land has a chance to hear arguments and make a decision.

From The Supreme Court of the United States on Jan 28, 2015: Application (14A796) granted by the Court. Respondents’ application for stays of execution of sentences of death presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted and it is hereby ordered that petitioners’ executions using midazolam are stayed pending final disposition of this case.

Wednesday’s order doesn’t address the death penalty. The State of Oklahoma is still able to execute condemned prisoners by any other means previously deemed constitutional, Sheets noted. The Stay also doesn’t make a determination about the controversial decision to use the drug midazolam as lethal injection agent during the execution process. It doesn’t determine anything about constituent ingredients. It doesn’t address process or propriety. It doesn’t make any kind of judgment, one way or the other.

What happened here in Oklahoma is simple – Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt asked earlier this week for the stay, according to a report by The Associated Press:

“Rather than stop the executions himself, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt took the unusual step of asking the justices for a stay. Oklahoma wants the right to resume executions if it finds a different suitable drug.  Pruitt said in a statement: “It is important that we act in order to best serve the interests of the victims of these horrific crimes and the state’s obligation to ensure justice in each and every case. The families of the victims in these three cases have waited a combined 48 years for the sentences of these heinous crimes to be carried out.”

The United State Supreme Court, defense attorneys for the condemned inmates and the Oklahoma Attorney General agreed that the state should wait on these executions until final disposition of the case. The executions are put on hold until the Court can hear Richard E. Glossip v. Kevin J. Gross.  Richard Glossip was the next inmate scheduled to be put to death

SCOTUS scrutiny: The drug and how it is administered

The Supreme Court will hear Glossip v. Gross in April and issue a decision in the summer. The focus of the case is the drug, midazolam, and whether it causes pain and suffering in the inmate. The drug is part of a drug combination used in the state’s lethal injection process. Last year, Oklahoma received worldwide attention after an execution using the same drug when terribly wrong.

During the execution process, midazolam (Midazolam Hydrochloride) is administered to the inmate, first, as a sedative. That injection, according to The New York Times, “was to be followed by injections of vecuronium bromide, a paralyzing agent that stops breathing, and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart.”

Phillips Murrah attorney, Mary Holloway Richard, a pioneer in healthcare law who has practiced in the area of clinical research and regulatory law for many years, said that the drug, itself, isn’t necessarily the problem. Rather, how and under what conditions it’s administered could be more at issue.

“To eliminate some of the mystique, this is the drug commonly known, and used, as Versed,” she clarified. “This drug is used in many venues and even for many different types of patients, including pediatric patients.”

A significant issue is raised by the exact recipe of the drug combination and the amount of Versed used, she added. “I keep seeing that it must be titrated properly.”

In other words, the dosage amount and duration of administration is very important to successful effect. Oklahoma has a three-drug protocol.

Also implicated is the manner in which the drug is administered. After the Clayton Lockett execution problems, Oklahoma released a report identifying insufficient training of those administering the drug and communication between prison and support staff, as well as a lack of contingency planning on the part of the Department of Public Safety.  The report also points to difficulties in starting the IV in Mr. Lockett.

More info: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-lethal-injection

 

From the President: Emulate The Reading Man

By Jim Webb
OCBA President

We are already smack dab in the middle of the 2014 holidays. Wow. Regardless of your background and experience, most would agree this is a time of reflection, a time of renewal, a time of giving. As OCBA members, we are, in part, “dedicated to serving… [our] community in order to foster the highest ideals of the legal profession [and] to better the quality of life in Oklahoma County.” The best gifts are ones of service, and we need not look very far to see an example of a fabulous giver.

Carver Mark Twain Head Start Program is on Main Street, just east of Villa. The program is designed for 3-4 year old kids who live below the poverty level. As you might expect, the 30 to 40 kids come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of needs, both academic and social. The goal, according to the program’s Site Director, Carla Price, is to give these kids everything they need to be prepared for kindergarten.

Bob Sheets

Bob Sheets

Enter “The Reading Man,” as he is very affectionately called by these precious preschoolers. Every month, our very own Bob Sheets leaves his high-rise downtown office and successful law practice at Phillips Murrah and enters the world of Carver Mark Twain Head Start. Bob leads the charge for the “Reading Buddies” program, in which he and others (including OCBA staffer Pam Bennett) read books aloud to the kids.

Bob gets down on the floor and sits “crisscrossapplesauce” with the kids, refusing to sit in what they call the “big people chair.” Bob shares a healthy snack (typically baby carrots and fruit) with the kids and invariably tells them the story behind whatever colorful tie he is wearing that particular day. They love his ties. But they love the interaction with Bob so much more. According to many studies, that type of interaction with adults is pivotally important to literacy success as these kids grow.

Last but not least, Bob and his colleagues provide every single one of the kids with two books.

Every visit. Every month. Year after year. For many of these kids, the books they receive from “The Reading Man” are the only physical items that are “theirs.” For this group of children, that is extremely important.

What Bob does is the very definition of servant leadership. It’s the very definition of giving. It’s the very definition of what we should be about as the OCBA. Carla Price summed it up by saying, “Bob is quite the winner in our book.” Bob’s work should inspire us all, not just in this holiday season, but year-round. On behalf of the hundreds of kids who have been positively impacted over the years, I say, “Thank you, thank you, Reading Man.”

Switching gears a bit, the Honorable Geary Walke took me up on my request to share ideas for expanding the membership and reach of the OCBA. As a result, we have the perfect gift for you to give another lawyer in Oklahoma County for the holidays. The price is right – completely free.

Between now and January 15, every member of the OCBA can nominate a single (as in 1 — not necessarily unmarried) attorney to become a new member of the OCBA, and the new member’s dues will be completely waived for the first year. As you think of whom to nominate, I would encourage you to think of lawyers from all different types of practice, including government, in-house, and the like. All you need to do is call the OCBA office (236-8421) and leave the name and address of your nominee. Our staff will take it from there by mailing him or her a new membership packet. Thanks to Judge Walke for this great idea. Keep the new ideas flowing, folks. My door is always open. Please email me at jim.webb@chk.com or call me at 935-9594. Happy Holidays and let’s look forward to a productive, fun 2015 together!

 

Published in the December 2014 edition of OCBA Briefcase

In the wake of Ferguson

By Cody Cooper, Associate/Litigation  and Robert N. Sheets, Director/Litigation

shutterstock_213974782-1Guest Column in The Journal Record, Published Dec. 3, 2014

By now, everyone is familiar with the situation in Ferguson, Missouri – the tragic loss of life, conflicting eyewitness accounts, and a decision not to indict the officer. Without offering an opinion as to the outcome, this article is intended to educate about Oklahoma’s grand jury process.

It is important to remember that a grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Rather, it is a tool used by prosecutors to analyze evidence and determine whether probable cause exists to charge a person with a crime. This differs from the standard required at a trial, which is that the defendant be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

During this process, the district attorney must choose to present the evidence to either a judge or a grand jury. Usually, the prosecutor will simply file the charges for a standard preliminary hearing. In the case of Ferguson, however, the district attorney chose to use the grand jury process.

A grand jury is comprised of 12 people who review evidence presented by the prosecution to determine whether probable cause exists to file charges. It is a fairly informal process where grand jury members, prosecutors, and any witnesses are, typically, the only individuals present. Usually no judge is present, and typically the defendant does not participate. Prosecutors present evidence to support criminal allegations and make a suggestion to the grand jury.

Evidence includes presenting witnesses and documents. Typically, prosecutors act in an advocate role to persuade the grand jury to indict. At the end of the prosecutors’ presentation of evidence, the grand jury members make their decision.

The Ferguson grand jury contained several idiosyncrasies:

  • Prosecutors presented all of the evidence to the grand jury rather than only presenting evidence suggesting culpability.
  • Prosecutors apparently made no recommendation to indict the officer. Instead, they left it up to the grand jury to determine the appropriate action.
  • The defendant was allowed to testify before the grand jury. Although these methods are not improper or illegal, they certainly aren’t typical.

Ultimately, the grand jury process is afforded wide investigatory powers. That the procedure in Ferguson departed from what is considered normal practice does not mean the ultimate decision was correct or incorrect.

PM Director Bob Sheets discusses fracking ban on NPR

Phillips Murrah Director Robert N. Sheets participated in a broadcast interview with StateImpact Oklahoma / KGOU reporter Joe Wertz regarding using local referendums to ban hydraulic fracturing.

This interview was broadcast in early November, 2014 and can be seen in its entirety at the StateImpact Oklahoma website.

To listen, click on the player below:

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Excerpt:

sheets-cutout-web

Bob Sheets

Property Rights

In Oklahoma, local officials have the authority to regulate and restrict oil and gas activity within city limits, an ordinance that enforced a fracking ban would likely draw an immediate legal challenge, says Robert Sheets, a land-use and natural resources attorney at the Phillips Murrah law firm in Oklahoma City.

“That’s what the cities are going to have to look at: Are they taking a property right from an individual by saying, ‘You cannot drill, you cannot frack on this property.’”

The energy industry has deep roots in Oklahoma, and many of the property laws themselves were written with oil and gas interests in mind. Sheets says the justification for an outright ban would have to be steep and defendable in court, especially if royalty owners argue that fracking is necessary to produce their oil and gas property.

“You’re probably going to end up with that rational basis test,” Sheets says. “Is there a rational basis for what they’re doing?”

Bob is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters. You can view his attorney profile page HERE.

About StateImpact: StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.

 

29 Attorneys Selected for 2014 Edition of Best Lawyers

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 — Phillips Murrah, one of Oklahoma’s largest law firms, announced today that 29 of its attorneys were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2014. Marc Edwards, Sally Hasenfratz, and Mel McVay, shareholders in the Firm, have been named “Lawyers of the Year” for Government Relations, Land Use and Zoning Law, and Litigation – Bankruptcy, respectively.  According to Best Lawyers, “Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as the “Lawyer of the Year,” making this honor particularly significant.”

“Our attorneys are proud to be consistently recognized by peers for delivering outstanding legal service to our clients,” said Tom Wolfe, a 2014 Best Lawyer® selection and the Firm’s managing partner.

Among the Firm’s breadth of legal services, more than 20 practice areas are represented by the attorneys that have been honored as this year’s Best Lawyers®, including:  banking and finance law, energy and natural resources, real estate, and tax law.

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which almost 50,000 leading attorneys cast nearly five million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas, and because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel Magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

Phillips Murrah’s 29 attorneys included in The Best Lawyers in America© 2014 are listed by name; first year included, and recognized practice areas:

  • Marc Edwards (2010) – Administrative/Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice
  • Andrew S. Mildren (2013) – Administrative/Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice
  • J. Mark Lovelace (2011) – Banking and Finance Law
  • Donald A. Pape (2011) – Banking and Finance Law
  • Timothy D. Kline (1987) – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law
  • Thomas G. Wolfe (2008) – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
  • Shannon K. Emmons (2013) – Commercial Litigation
  • Juston R. Givens (2013) – Commercial Litigation
  • Fred A. Leibrock (2010) – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate
  • Melvin R. McVay, Jr. (2011) – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate
  • Michael R. Perri (2010) – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law
  • Robert N. Sheets (2012) – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate
  • Jennifer L. Miller (2013) – Commercial Litigation
  • Lyndon W. Whitmire (2013) – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
  • Sally A. Hasenfratz (2009) – Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law
  • Jim Roth (2012) – Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law
  • William S. Price (2013) – Government Relations Practice
  • Stephen W. Elliott (2014) – Litigation – Bankruptcy
  • Robert J. Haupt (2012) – Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning
  • John D. Hastie (1983) – Litigation – Real Estate; Real Estate Law
  • Elizabeth K. Brown (2008) – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates
  • Robert O. O’Bannon (2008) – Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law
  • Dawn M. Rahme (2013) – Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law
  • Raymond E. Zschiesche (2013) – Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
  • G. Calvin Sharpe (2012) – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants
  • Terry L. Hawkins (2013) – Public Finance Law
  • Cindy H. Murray (2012) – Real Estate Law
  • Douglas A. Branch (2008) – Securities/Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law
  • Michael D. Carter (2012) – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

About Phillips Murrah

Phillips Murrah is represented by more than 65 attorneys, 20 practice areas, and is one of Oklahoma’s leading business law firms. The Firm is recognized for providing multidisciplinary legal services in matters involving virtually all aspects of business law and litigation. Our attorneys are trusted legal advisors and strategic partners, focused on our clients’ objectives, and helping them achieve their goals.
For more information, visit: www.phillipsmurrah.com

###

Contact:
Peter Wyro, Director of Marketing
Phillips Murrah
405.552.2489 Direct

Gavel to Gavel: Hard lessons to learn

By Robert Sheets
Guest Columnist | August 1, 2013

Phillips Murrah Director Robert Sheets

Robert N. Sheets, a Firm founder, is a Director in the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. He represents both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of commercial litigation matters.

Many are torn over a Florida jury’s acquittal of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Would his case have played out the same way in Oklahoma?

The ruling brings further scrutiny to “stand your ground” laws even though these laws were not brought up in Zimmerman’s trial; his lawyers argued simple self-defense. However, self-defense is anything but simple.

A defendant can be convicted of first- or second-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma. In Florida, a jury has only the first-degree option. In Oklahoma, second-degree manslaughter occurs when the death is caused by the defendant’s culpable negligence – the omission to do something a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act.

Florida’s manslaughter statute requires that the victim’s death be caused by culpable negligence. Florida’s jury instructions state that a merely negligent act isn’t sufficient – the defendant must consciously perform an act or course of conduct likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

When Zimmerman left his car and followed Trayvon Martin against the advice of police, it could appear that Zimmerman’s actions may have met Oklahoma’s requirements for second-degree manslaughter.

In our state, self-defense is a defense to manslaughter, but self-defense is not available to a person who is the aggressor – defined as a person who by his or her wrongful acts, provokes, brings about or continues an altercation. Thus, Martin would have had no duty to retreat, but may stand firm and use the right of self-defense against an aggressor.

In light of Florida’s ruling, many states are now taking a closer look at their own “stand your ground” laws, despite this not being used as a defense in Zimmerman’s case. Oklahomans should look to November when state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, plans to launch a review of Oklahoma’s “stand your ground” and open-carry laws. Shelton has not indicated if he intends to push for repeal of these laws.

That said, this case is a tragedy as it has led to the death of a young man in the beginning of his life. My prayers are with the Martin family for the loss of someone so young and with the nation as a whole, in hopes we can come together and learn from this tragedy.

Robert Sheets is a civil litigator and director at Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City.

Reproduced with permission from The Journal Record.

State Chamber releases Supreme Court judicial evaluations

The Journal Record Logo

By M. Scott Carter | Sept. 27, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY — Saying he just wanted to provide voters with more information, the president of the State Chamber of Oklahoma released the group’s first judicial evaluations of the state’s Supreme Court justices.

Chamber CEO Fred Morgan, who served as minority floor leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives several years ago, said the rankings were generated for the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, a group created by the chamber.

Morgan, however, declined to name the council’s members or its board of directors.

Morgan said the evaluations were needed by voters.

“We think that the public needs more information,” he said. “Our members have asked us to be more engaged in that evaluation and in those retention areas – they want more information. It’s vitally important for all Oklahomans to have information about how these cases, which often impact everyone in our state, are decided.”

Though in Oklahoma appellate judges are appointed by the governor, they are required to stand for public vote every four years via a judicial retention ballot.

Morgan said the evaluations were performed by the Judicial Evaluation Institute of Washington, D.C. He said the study was analyzed by attorneys in Oklahoma, but he refused to say who those attorneys were.

Morgan said the study focused on the spread of civil liability.

“The spread of civil litigation affects everyone in our community, it’s not just a business issue,” he said. “Even the Girl Scouts and other nonprofit organization are affected by the spread of civil liability.”

However, legal experts said it’s difficult to say whether or not civil liability was a negative.

“I’m kind of at a loss on what that means, exactly,” said Bob Sheets, a shareholder with the Phillips Murrah law firm. “It’s hard to say whether or not that’s a good idea. I never saw Oklahoma out of control with regards to civil liability.”

The concept of civil liability, Sheets said, was based on law and state statutes.

“If someone violated those standards, there would be civil liability,” he said.

Sheets said a better evaluation of state Supreme Court justices would be based on how impartial the justices were and whether or not they followed the law.

“Are they fair and impartial?” he said. “What you want is a judge – like an umpire or a referee – who is not going to let their personal feelings interfere with their ruling.”

Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to comment.

ODVA software deal ended in litigation

The Journal Record Logo

By M. Scott Carter | August 21, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – From 1999 to 2003, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs paid more than $7 million for custom-designed software that it never received, court documents obtained by The Journal Record show.

Detailed in evidence exhibits, memos and court filings, documents show that the ODVA spent $7,506,584 with Texas-based Novosad Hayes and Associates, or NHA, to make sure ODVA computers were ready for the Dec. 21, 1999, calendar change and to develop custom software to link the agency and its seven veterans centers.

The records were part of a lawsuit filed by then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office against Novosad in 2004. And though the case originated in Oklahoma City federal court, it was eventually remanded back to Oklahoma County District Court, where it was settled.

Developed in 1999, a technology services agreement between Novosad and the ODVA earmarked millions of dollars in state funds for the three-year project. Documents show that the first year’s goals included making computers at the ODVA and its seven veterans centers compatible for the turn of the century.

“This approach should eliminate most Y2K-related problems from the agency’s computer system,” according to an attachment to the ODVA contract. “However, ODVA expects some Y2K problems to remain.”

As the year 2000 approached, many government agencies and private companies feared that outdated computer calendar software would cause problems when the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000. Across the country, governmental agencies and private companies spent millions of dollars seeking to prevent system failures and software problems.

However, on New Year’s Day in 2000, few computers suffered from Y2K glitches.

But in their lawsuit, ODVA officials reported that Novosad accomplished only the first-year goals of the contract.

The project had become so mired in problems and change orders that just three days after Novosad sent a demand letter to the ODVA seeking an additional $5.2 million in funds, the ODVA responded by ordering Novosad staff to vacate the agency’s building.

“On Jan. 24, 2003 Novosad demanded to be paid an additional $5,236,983, yet still had not delivered the software product that was the subject of years two and three,” the ODVA said in a court filing. “Novosad has breached the agreement by failing to deliver the software product.”

On Jan. 27, ODVA officials demanded that the company leave the agency’s building.

“(The) ODVA gave NHA notice to vacate the premises due to its breach, thereby canceling the agreement for cause,” the ODVA said in its complaint.

Novosad, state records show, had requested at least three different change orders in the project. In one order, ODVA staff members justified the change, saying it was caused by several circumstances that were expected but not foreseeable.

In a memo from ODVA auditor Steven Diffee to Betty Cricklin, a buyer with the Department of Central Services, Diffee said the change – which totaled $385,700 – was due to the additional programming and software development identified in the operational analysis.

Novosad, Diffee wrote, needed to complete the operational analysis so they could identify what needed to be done in the way of programming and software design in order to have the ability to plan and execute the work requirements in an effective and efficient manner.

“To do this NHA visited each of our facilities and identified roughly 200 or so staff functions per center,” he wrote. “The number of functions identified was far greater than what was originally anticipated. This change accounts for the large increase in programming hours necessary to complete the project.”

Diffee said the company had originally planned to purchase software packages that could be customized to each function. However, that idea didn’t work out. Instead, Diffee wrote that Novosad determined the software could not be changed and that custom-developed software was needed.

“As you know it is always more expensive to develop and write in-house custom software as opposed to purchasing software packages,” he wrote.

Novosad responded to the lawsuit, filing a counterclaim and seeking to dismiss the case. In addition, Novosad attorney Heather Hintz wrote, the ODVA caused the problems by failing to provide Novosad with adequate work space, supplies and equipment and wrongfully withholding payments due the company.

“As a result of ODVA’s constant breaches of its obligations under the technology services agreement, NHA was forced to expend thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars in an attempt to complete the project,” Hintz wrote.

The company’s former attorney, Bob Sheets – a shareholder with the Phillips Murrah law firm – said the case was eventually settled out of court.

“We filed a counterclaim,” he said. “That was a while back, but it was settled.”

Telephone calls to the ODVA and Novosad were not returned.

Attorney: Stream adjudication lawsuit move not a surprise

By M. Scott Carter

[ MARCH 14, 2012 – OKLA. CITY ] City and state officials are still scratching their heads over a legal maneuver by the Department of Justice Monday that shifted a stream adjudication lawsuit from the Oklahoma Supreme Court and placed it back in federal court.

The move is the latest chapter in a two-year legal drama that has evolved from the sale of Sardis Lake’s water storage rights. In 2010, despite objections from tribal leaders, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust paid $27 million to purchase water storage rights to the southeastern Oklahoma reservoir.

That deal spawned a firestorm of protests that climaxed in a federal lawsuit filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in August 2011. In that lawsuit, both tribes claimed that water rights to the area were granted to them in the 1830s via a series of federal treaties.

Following the tribes’ action, city and state officials countered with a stream adjudication lawsuit that went to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

On Monday, the stream adjudication, like the tribes’ initial legal action, was placed in federal court.

Bob Sheets, an attorney with the Phillips Murrah law firm, said the state could try to have the case moved back, but success was unlikely.

“The only real question is: Is it a proper removal and do they have jurisdiction?” Sheets said. “The state could ask for removal. They could try to get it remanded back to state court, but if they’ve (the DOJ) proper jurisdiction, it would be unlikely it would be remanded.”

Sheets said moving a case from state to federal court wasn’t uncommon.

“If you’ve got the grounds, cases can be moved,” he said. “Some people want to be in federal court as opposed to state court. It’s fairly common; I don’t see it as earth-shattering.”

In the notice to move the case, U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats wrote that the petition filed by the state did not reveal any reason for initiating a general stream adjudication of the Kiamichi, Muddy Boggs and Clear Boggy basins apart from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s desire to resolve a claim filed by both nations.

“The question whether the Oklahoma Supreme Court action satisfies the requirements of the McCarran Amendment has also been presented to this court in the pending action,” Coats wrote. “The (water) board’s petition and brief do not reveal any reason for initiating a general stream adjudication of the Kiamichi, Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy basins (such as a water shortage) apart from the board’s desire to resolve the nations’ federal law-based claims, and thus suggest that the state-law legal questions and associated factual questions typically presented in a general stream adjudication could be avoided by resolution of the nations’ claims presented in its action in this court.”

Oklahoma City officials, who previously issued statements praising the state’s high court for taking the case, downplayed the DOJ’s action.

“This is a procedural move that doesn’t change the nature of the case,” Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch said. “General stream adjudication could be decided in either court. Oklahoma City remains committed to a legal process that will result in a fair allocation of the state’s water.”

Alex Weintz, Gov. Mary Fallin’s spokesman, said the governor’s legal team was examining the notice.

“The governor and her office are reviewing the pleadings filed … by the Department of Justice and conferring with legal counsel,” Weintz said.

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office filed the stream adjudication and petitioned the state’s highest court to assume original jurisdiction in the lawsuit, said little about the filing.

“We have received the pleading and we’re reviewing it,” said Diane Clay, Pruitt’s spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.

Tribal leaders, however, praised the move.

“We think this is a very positive development because we think federal court is the proper venue for our claim, which is based on our historic treaties with the U.S. government and on federal law,” Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle and Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a joint statement.

Federal rules require that a notice to remove a lawsuit filed against the United States in state court must be made within 30 days of receipt of service of the state court lawsuit. Justice Department officials said the agency would seek opportunities to resolve the dispute through a negotiated process with the state and tribal sovereigns.

MidTown housing development wins approval from design committee

By Steve Lackmeyer

[JANUARY 20, 2012 – OKLAHOMA CITY] – Plans for a $34 million apartment complex set to be built later this year in MidTown won unanimous approval Thursday from the Downtown Design Review Committee despite ongoing protests from more than two dozen residents of nearby Heritage Hills that the project is too dense for the area.

Read more

OBA presents awards

Staff Report, Wire

[NOVEMBER 7, 2011 – TULSA, Okla.] – The Oklahoma Bar Association presented 21 awards at its 107th annual meeting Nov. 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Tulsa.

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City court could face backlash

By M. Scott Carter

[ SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 – OKLAHOMA CITY ] – Oklahoma City’s municipal court could be forced to retry more than 100 cases and, possibly, refund thousands of dollars in fines after a state appellate court overturned a Del City woman’s conviction for harboring a dangerous animal.

Read more

State Question 752 would add two laypeople to the Judicial Nominating Commission

By Sarah Clough Chambers | Oklahoma Gazette

[ OCTOBER 13, 2010 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ] Want to weigh in on the nomination of judges statewide? If State Question 752 passes on Nov. 2, and you cozy up to the Senate president pro tempore or the speaker of the House of Representatives, you could do just that as a lay member of the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission.

As the Oklahoma Constitution stands, members of the JNC are comprised of six attorneys chosen by the Oklahoma Bar Association, six non-attorneys chosen by the governor and one at-large member selected by the committee that appoints judges or justices when a vacancy occurs. If passed, the state question would amend the constitution to allow two new at-large members; one chosen by the House speaker, the other by the Senate president pro tempore. It would also bar lay members who are attorneys, or have an attorney in their immediate family, even if that person does not practice law in Oklahoma.

“Right now, anyone who’s not a lawyer, but is a resident of the state of Oklahoma can be a lay member of the Judicial Nominating Commission,” said Robert Sheets, an attorney with Phillips Murrah. “What you’re doing is taking out of that pool anyone who is related to a lawyer.”

Sheets said if the measure is approved, voters should know that it will amend the constitution and put the Legislature into a process it did not have a hand in before. Sheets warned it would also shrink the pool of qualified applicants to sit on the commission to only those without a lawyer in their immediate family. By inserting politics into the judicial selection process, Sheets said it could affect the judges who are eventually chosen.

“A judge needs to be somebody who is impartial, nonpartisan and no matter what their political background, no matter what their personal value system is, they need to make the tough decisions on what the law is,” he said. “The more you inject politics into the judicial process, the more it dilutes who becomes a judge.”

SQ 752 originated last session at the Capitol by Sens. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Patrick Anderson, R-Enid. Both want the Legislature to have a say in who ultimately sits on the bench in Oklahoma. Jolley maintains the current process completely excludes the Legislature and allows the judiciary to pick themselves with little input from the governor and zero from the legislative branch.

“Imagine if someone said that we should allow the Legislature to select future members of the Legislature. Would that go over well?” Jolley said. “Yet that is what the attorneys within the judicial branch do: They select the judges who will preside over their cases.”

Jolley said oftentimes qualified candidates are shut out of the process to become judges because the process is dominated by attorneys and their families. He cited one constituent who he said had extensive experience in the law, but failed to ever make the top three names despite numerous attempts. Jolley said the current system also limits the governor’s choices when presented a pool of candidates for the commission.

“The only input the governor gets is in appointing the non-lawyer members of the commission and then selecting from the final three candidates,” he said. “If they don’t like any of the choices, then they are unable to say ‘no’ to them and pick their own choice.”

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Rudolph Hargrave, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1978 and plans to retire in December, said he doesn’t think that the state question will change things a lot if approved, but added that he feels the current system is working fine.

“For 40 years it’s worked, and I think worked perfectly,” he said. “I don’t see any point in fooling with it.” —Sarah Clough Chambers

WHAT IT WILL DO

A “yes” vote on State Question 752 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to allow two at-large members from any congressional district in the state to be appointed to the current 13-member Judicial Nomination Commission. One would be selected by the speaker of the House and the other by the Senate president pro tempore.

The question would also bar any non-attorney member who has an attorney in their immediate family related to that person by blood or marriage.

Kelley Chambers contributed reporting to this article.

Seven vie for Oklahoma Supreme Court seat

By M. Scott Carter

[ OCTOBER 7, 2010 – OKLAHOMA CITY ] – Seven attorneys, including a former legislator, a sitting member of the Court of Civil Appeals and a district judge, have applied to be the next justice on the state Supreme Court, an official with the court system confirmed this week.

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Sheets discusses Supreme Court ruling

When the Supreme Court ruled on a recent case involving arbitration, it decided to limit the role courts can play in vacating or modifying arbitration awards. TheJournal Record interviewed litigation veteran and founding partner Robert N. Sheets for his insight on the this ruling, considering his extensive experience working with the Supreme Court. According to Sheets, the judicial review taken up by the Supreme Court is usually sought as a way to avoid arbitration because arbitration decisions are final, which do not always bode well for the parties involved. Many attorneys put judicial review clauses in contracts as a means of seeking different settlements options, so that parties’ rights and options are protected. By ruling this way, the Supreme Court has limited the ability to insert such clauses into certain contracts.

Hasenfratz, Maule and Sheets named leaders in law

At the Law Day Luncheon hosted by the Oklahoma County Bar Association, directors and shareholders Sally A. HasenfratzByrona J. Maule and Robert N. Sheets were publicly recognized for their outstanding contributions to the legal community. The honorees are chosen by a confidential selection committee, looking for diversity, commitment to volunteerism and community involvement, and professional accomplishments.

Leadership in Law profile: Robert Sheets

From The Journal Record
Published: May 2, 2008
Click to see full story – Leadership in Law profile: Robert Sheets

Robert N. Sheets is a commercial litigator, director and one of the firm’s founders. He represents construction and energy industry clients in a broad range of real estate, land use and business litigation matters.

Robert Sheets’ personal philosophy in life, passed on to him at an early age by his mother, is to treat people with respect and always do the right thing.

“It is easy in modern society to look only to the rules and the law for boundaries. The most enduring boundaries, however, are those placed there by the individual, because the individual knows what is right and what is wrong and follows those rules because it is right not because it is legal,” Sheets said.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Sheets has a bachelor’s degree from Washington University. He earned his juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University in 1979 and began his legal career as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Fred Daugherty.

“He taught me that law is too important to just be a business,” Sheets said.

Sheets entered private practice as an associate and later served as partner with the law firm now known as Kornfeld Franklin & Phillips. From 1981 to 1986, he also served as an adjunct law professor at Oklahoma City University. In 1986, he co-founded Phillips McFall McCaffrey McVay & Murrah. Today he remains a shareholder in the firm’s litigation department and a member of its natural resources practice group. His practice focuses on commercial litigation, real estate and oil and gas. He is admitted to practice in Oklahoma, all districts of the U.S. District Court of Oklahoma, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arizona, U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

He is a member of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, serving in various capacities throughout the years including board member of its Voices of Children Committee. He also is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, American Bar Association, Oklahoma City Society of Title Attorneys Association and the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Sheets’ honors include being listed in Oklahoma Super Lawyers in Business Litigation and receiving the 2007 Outstanding Law Review Alumni Award from the OCU School of Law. In addition, he is a past recipient of the Boy Scouts Award of Merit and Boss of the Year award from the Oklahoma City Legal Secretaries Association.

His civic and nonprofit affiliations include serving on the fundraising committee for Legal Aid of Oklahoma and chairing the Voices for Children committee where he read to children each month at the Carver-Mark Twain Head Start. He also currently serves as a youth volunteer and chairman of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee at Wesley United Methodist Church.