| August 3, 2017

OCPA President Jonathan Small responds to Oklahoma Bar Association hypocrisy

OCPA President Jonathan Small Responds To Oklahoma Bar Association Hypocrisy

In a recent news story, the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) criticized the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) for noting OBA bias against former Oklahoma Attorney General and current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt.

OBA Executive Director John Morris Williams claimed that a recent op-ed written by OCPA President Jonathan Small was “incorrect in stating the Oklahoma Bar Association licensed lawyers and was a private political organization” and was “trying to politicize a purely non-political situation.”

Williams went on to say “We investigate every complaint, and the fact that a compliant (sic) is being investigated should not have anyone drawing any conclusions on its merit.” In regards to the OBA’s power, Williams was dismissive, claiming that “The licensing and ultimate discipline power is vested with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.”

After reviewing the comments, OCPA President Jonathan Small released the following statement:

“It’s ludicrous and ironic for OBA Executive Director John Morris Williams to accuse anyone else of politicizing the situation regarding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The OBA should take a look in the mirror.

“Mr. Williams runs an organization where leadership has exposed their bias via vicious public attacks on Mr. Pruitt in national left-wing outlets like The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Huffington Post.

“It's entirely misleading for the Bar to assert that investigations are private when OBA Board Members continue publically attacking Mr. Pruitt. If this investigation truly is private, then OBA staff and its leadership, including Mr. Williams and OBA Board Member and Past President Garvin Isaacs, should stop commenting about Mr. Pruitt if the public is to believe the OBA won’t be biased against him. These complaints are supposed to be handled confidentially by the OBA, yet Mr. Williams told the left-wing Huffington Post that far-left Senator Whitehouse’s submission ‘would cause the investigation to go on longer.’

“This isn’t the first time the OBA has entered the political fray. Oklahomans have noticed that the OBA has allowed itself to be listed as endorsing a candidate in a legislative race last year. The OBA also seems to have a history of looking the other way for left-leaning lawyers like Oklahoma State Senator Gene Stipe—a convicted felon.

“It's also misleading for Mr. Williams to deflect that the Oklahoma Supreme Court is ultimately responsible for attorney licensure and discipline. His own organization’s website says: ‘The Oklahoma Supreme Court gives the Oklahoma Bar Association, Office of the General Counsel, the authority to investigate complaints against lawyers.’

“The OBA also controls a whopping 40 percent of the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) and is the only group that can appoint lawyers to the JNC, which exclusively selects candidates for the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This would be similar to allowing a private bankers association exclusive power to regulate banking.

“Private organizations have the right to be involved in politics, but it is simply wrong to allow a private political organization to exercise government power. This incident is just one more example of why the OBA should not get special powers under Oklahoma law.”

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