Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oklahoma Supreme Court holds that notice provided only via Facebook does not satisfy due process

In a decision issued on October 14, 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court engaged in a spirited debate over whether a Facebook message provided adequate notice under state and federal due process requirements. The issue arose in a parental rights dispute between a mother and father. The majority held that Facebook messaging is unreliable and insufficient to meet the requirements of due process. The three dissenting justices pointed out that the father admitted receiving the Facebook message -- noting the longstanding principal that actual notice is adequate notice. The dissent then points out that other methods of communication could be just as unreliable.
In paragraph 37 of the opinion, the majority of the justices wrote: “Instead of contacting Father directly, Mother left him a message on Facebook, which is an unreliable method of communication if the accountholder does not check it regularly or have it configured in such a way as to provide notification of unread messages by some other means. This Court is unwilling to declare notice via Facebook alone sufficient to meet the requirements of the due process clauses of the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions because it is not reasonably certain to inform those affected.”

In paragraph 11 of the dissenting opinion, the dissenting justices wrote: “The majority opinion does not inform the biological mother precisely what notice is needed to satisfy this Court. The rule has been long accepted that, ‘Actual notice is the preferred method of satisfying due process requirements. . . .’ In re Dana P. 1982 OK 149, ¶ 9, 656 P.2d 253, 255. The Facebook message was actual notice. The Father testified that Facebook was his method to contact the Mother after he learned of the guardianship and that he reached her within twenty-four hours. Why would Facebook be any less reliable than other forms of electronic communication? Does the Court require a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses? Face-to-face discussions can be denied; letters can remain unopened; and faxes can be lost.”

The decision can be found here:

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Videoconferencing for courts: Pilot program announced

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently made news by canceling its contract for development of a unified electronic case management system. Electronic filing may move forward in some manner. Yet while e-filing’s path forward may be unknown outside of the Oklahoma Judicial Center, the Supreme Court provided indications this week that it will continue working on technology issues facing Oklahoma courts.
On Monday, the court announced a pilot program for videoconferencing in district courts. Building on electronic transmission circuits already in place, the court intends to allow court reporters, interpreters, witnesses and judges to participate in hearings and proceedings through remote video access.
Many attorneys will correctly point out that district courts already use videoconferencing. Oklahoma law authorizes district courts to use videoconferencing between courtroom and correctional facilities or juvenile detention facilities to conduct sentence reviews, post-conviction relief hearings, delinquent and deprived actions, custody and adoption proceedings, commitment proceedings, and extradition proceedings. Likewise, Oklahoma law authorizes the use of videoconferencing and other alternative methods for presentation of testimony from witnesses under the age of 13 years.
The new pilot program extends the availability of videoconferencing to all stages of civil and criminal litigation. The trial judge is given discretion on whether to allow videoconferencing based on a list of factors, including undue surprise, prejudice, the parties’ diligence in securing a witness’s physical presence, security risks, whether the litigation affects a party’s fundamental rights, the trial court’s ability to control the proceedings through remote means, and whether videoconferencing will affect the dignity, solemnity, and formality of proceedings.
The program will cover Beaver, LeFlore, McCurtain, Texas and Washington counties. The Administrative Office of the Courts will equip one courtroom in each county with videoconferencing equipment.
One driving factor for this program is a shortage of court reporters and interpreters in rural counties. Tulsa County Presiding Judge Carlos J. Chappelle confirmed the current shortage of court reporters, citing low examination passing rates for new reporters. Chappelle reported that the new videoconferencing program would be a good thing for Tulsa County. The program might allow Tulsa County court reporters to provide their services to other counties when time permits.
While some may say that cancellation of the vendor contract for electronic case management is a step backward, videoconferencing may be a step forward for ensuring access to Oklahoma’s court system.

Gavel to Gavel: Remote control

Friday, May 2, 2014

Does Oklahoma need a civility oath?

Click the link below yo learn about California's new civility oath:

Civility oath requires new California lawyers to pledge to behave with dignity

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Looking at juror social media profiles OK: ABA

The ABA issued an ethics opinion on whether lawyers may look up prospective jurors on social media.

"Lawyers who want to pick through troves of public information that jurors or potential jurors put on the Internet about themselves may do so, but they may not communicate directly with the jurors, such as asking to 'friend' them on Facebook, according to a formal ethics opinion issued today by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professionalism."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gavel to Gavel: Greener Pastures?

The Oklahoma House of Representatives plans to address whether to change the method of judicial selection in Oklahoma.

One does not have to look far for an example of partisan elections for appellate judges. The Texas Constitution provides for these types of elections. During election season, visitors to Texas can see this process in action, through a multitude of billboards, favoring or disfavoring a judicial candidate, often from a partisan viewpoint.

Is the pasture greener in Texas? Some members of the Texas appellate judiciary don’t think so. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett recently said that he and every member of his court favor smart judicial-selection reform, with the goal of moving away from “the current partisan elected system. … Interestingly, the business lobby and tort-reform groups all favor scrapping (Texas’) current (partisan) judicial-selection system.”

Read more:

amendments to jury instructions and court rules

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has approved modifications to the Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instructions, the Rules for District Courts, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules.  Most notably, these amendments now specifically address the use of jury questionnaires.  In addition, the Court has approved amendments to verdict forms, and jury instructions for false representation, nondisclosure or concealment, wrongful discharge, employment based discrimination, exemplary damages, defamation, and trade secrets.


The amendments to jury instructions can be found here:

The amendments to the Rules for District Courts can be found here:  Note that this order references the "Uniform District Court Rules," although the rules still appear to be entitled "Rules for District Courts."

The amendments to the Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules can be found here: