September 24, 2021

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Stitt taps Tulsa man for AG even with ‘not qualified’ rating

4 min read

OKLAHOMA City (AP) — A Tulsa lawyer whom the American Bar Affiliation rated as “ not skilled ” to serve as a federal choose was tapped Friday by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to serve as the state’s upcoming attorney typical.

Immediately after a two-thirty day period search that began in Might soon after Republican Mike Hunter stepped down all of a sudden, Stitt selected John O’Connor, 66, to fill the vacancy, giving the governor an ally in his ever more contentious romance with some of the Native American tribes in the condition. Stitt and Hunter, both equally Republicans, once in a while clashed on various matters, including above Stitt’s determination to renegotiate the state’s gaming compacts with Indigenous American tribes.

“It was so essential to me to discover a person who was very knowledgeable in the law, but a lot more importantly, I was on the lookout for someone with significant moral character who will do the appropriate factors for the proper good reasons and never ever for individual obtain,” Stitt mentioned following asserting his choose in Tulsa.

“As the state’s top rated regulation enforcer, we essential another person ready to fight and defend what’s ideal for all 4 million Oklahomans.”

O’Connor was formally sworn into business office Friday afternoon by Oklahoma Supreme Courtroom Justice John Kane for the duration of a ceremony at the condition Capitol.

Stitt stated he’s acknowledged O’Connor for far more than 20 several years and considers him a “mentor” who served advise him when Stitt was CEO of a home loan enterprise.

O’Connor will have to run for the seat in a statewide election in 2022, and he indicated Tuesday that he “absolutely” designs to do so.

“I want to get in there, get my palms dirty, and I’m sure it will choose for a longer period than 16 months,” O’Connor claimed.

O’Connor obviously sides with the governor in his opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last yr in McGirt v. Oklahoma that a significant swath of japanese Oklahoma stays an Indian reservation. He reported he hopes the substantial courtroom reverses its placement in the landmark tribal sovereignty circumstance.

“We need to have to limit McGirt, if it is not going to be overturned, to the prosecution of big federal crimes in federal court docket,” O’Connor said, voicing problem that the viewpoint in the circumstance was published in a way that could most likely grow tribal sovereignty further than felony jurisdiction.

At least just one Republican challenger, Tulsa lawyer Gentner Drummond, has submitted paperwork indicating he plans to look for the publish. Drummond missing to Hunter in a GOP most important in 2018 by fewer than 300 votes and said Friday he was undeterred by the governor’s choose.

“While I regard his authority to appoint a applicant of his deciding on, my enthusiasm to serve as the subsequent elected lawyer general stays undaunted,” Drummond claimed in a statement.

O’Connor, an lawyer with the Oklahoma-based mostly organization Hall Estill, was nominated for a federal judgeship in 2018 by previous President Donald Trump, but unsuccessful to advance past a Senate panel soon after the American Bar Association unanimously rated him not certified to provide. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the then head of the association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Paul Moxley, stated O’Connor’s unanimous rating was on the foundation of “integrity and professional competence.”

In the September 2018 letter, Moxley explained Tulsa-spot lawyers questioned by the panel mentioned that O’Connor lacked demo working experience and questioned his conditioning to accomplish as a decide.

O’Connor “does not have experience trying jury situations in any court, has not appeared generally in federal court in any capability, and has no discernable prison practical experience,” Moxley wrote.

Attorneys also indicated O’Connor’s requests for authorized service fees in a selection of circumstances had been abnormal, and at minimum two issues were being designed to the Oklahoma Bar Association about O’Connor charging extreme expenses and not being truthful.

“Attorneys who experienced direct professional dealings with the nominee cited other examples of his dishonesty and disregard of moral and expert obligations,” Moxley wrote.

When requested Friday to answer to the American Bar Association’s conclusions, O’Connor responded: “I’m pleased to tackle that query,” before strolling absent from a reporter and into the governor’s business.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office environment, Alex Gerszewski, afterwards claimed in a statement that the ABA has a background of bias in opposition to conservative appointees to the bench.

“The past two Republican presidents opted out of the non-public trade group’s support in assessing candidates because of their liberal positions,” Gerszewski claimed.

Stitt, by means of a spokesman, referred to the countrywide group’s 15-member panel that unanimously voted for O’Connor’s ranking as an “out-of-state, liberal unique curiosity group” and claimed he experienced “zero concerns” about their impression.

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