To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Observercast

Stitt’s Standards

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With the announcement that Gov. Kevin Stitt has selected nondescript Tulsa lawyer John O’Connor as our next attorney general I thought it would be fun, if not relevant, to list the qualifications Klueless Kevin looks for in appointees to high office. They are listed below in order of importance:

  1. The person must not be qualified for the job. Therefore O’Connor is a perfect fit. He was rated unanimously as “not qualified” for a federal judgeship by the American Bar Association based on his record related to ethical lapses, his lack of courtroom experience and his grievous habit of overcharging clients. Outside of those and many other deficiencies, Stitt still says he’s the best lawyer in Oklahoma to be our AG.
  2. More broadly speaking, the successful candidate for any perk or public position in a Stitt administration had best be a graduate of [or even just enrolled at] Oklahoma State University. Others need not apply.
  3. Roots in Tulsa, such as living there, knowing where it is on a map or even just having heard of the community will be helpful … actually almost mandatory. Check the box for O’Connor.
  4. The prospective appointee must not be from Norman where Stitt went to high school. Exceptions are made for max campaign contributors or those that knew and liked Stitt’s father who was a preacher in the community decades ago. There are a good number of the former and I am still looking for even one of the latter.
  5. Devotees to private or charter schools not a must but could be used as a tie-breaker between two or more nominees for the same position.
  6. Previous legal work for Stitt’s mortgage company may still be of some importance to the governor, especially if it was done back during “The Troubles” when his outfit named Gateway was banned from doing business in Georgia. Tulsa lawyer O’Connor did exactly that legal assistance decades ago. The results were mixed, at best, as they usually will be in the court of law for our new attorney general.

Now, many detractors of how my mind works – or doesn’t – are likely to be dismissive of my little ditty posted above but before you do, check on the backgrounds of former or current hot shots in the Stitt regime. You’ll find a plethora of such disquieting qualifications in their life’s experiences.

And that’s bad because you are paying the freight for such mediocre performances, including the fact that Team Stitt has never won a lawsuit against any Oklahoma tribe whether it was filed concerning casino gaming or the vagaries of the McGirt Supreme Court decision from 2020.

However, let me finish on a positive note. The new, but possibly very temporary AG said at the press conference in Tulsa on Friday that he will “definitely run for a full four-year term as AG come election time in 2022.” Considering the strong performance during the 2018 election for AG turned in by Gentner Drummond, an already announced candidate again next year, O’Connor may be Oklahoma’s chief law enforcement officer for only a matter of months not years.

And that would be a good thing.

O’CONNOR POSTSCRIPT

Even for Stitt this is a real stinker. O’Connor’s public record is fraught with boo boos and serious mistakes in judgment and ethical behavior. You will hear more about those soon enough but what really grabbed me in the reporting on O’Connor is the following: Over a period of the last 60 years in evaluating the qualifications of lawyers to be federal judges, the American Bar Association has issued a total of only five, that’s f-i-v-e, unanimous decisions declaring the nominee was “unqualified.” There are 15 members of the ABA evaluation team which means every one of them has to agree the lawyer in question is so bad, so inept, so intellectually challenged that he/she deserves the public humiliation of a 15-0 condemnation.

By the way the last jury trial O’Connor was a participant of record in was 1997, 24 years ago. Stitt surely knew that as well as all the other aberrant behaviors by O’Connor that would make a run-of-the-mill felon blush.

So why the pick? Let me save you time. Our new attorney general was a lawyer for Stitt’s Gateway Mortgage firm years ago when it was in trouble with legal forces in several states. Both parties, Stitt and O’Connor, must have liked the results but we may never know. When asked about his “unqualified” rating by a reporter, the new AG said he would be delighted to respond to the query. Then the muscle for Stitt arrived and whisked Mr. O away before he could reply.

Not a good start for transparency, but who knows? Maybe he’ll grow into the job or, with a tough opponent already out on the hustings, he may be back to the drudgery of lawyering in Tulsa before he knows it.

Based on, at best, his gentleman’s C record in life so far I certainly hope so.

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Cal Hobson
Cal Hobson, a Lexington Democrat, served in the Oklahoma Legislature from 1978-2006, including one term as Senate President Pro Tempore.