Oklahoma Judge Kendra Coleman removed from office in 5-4 decision

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After a three week trial, a special court voted to remove Oklahoma County District Court Judge Kendra Coleman from office.

Judge Coleman took the stand for two days in her own defense during the last week of the trial. Moments after the decision was made Friday, she had no comment as she walked to her car.

The first term judge has been accused of ethics violations and inappropriate behavior on the bench.

Her supporters contend she was targeted as a person of color, and as a personal vendetta since the beginning of her time in office.

“If she is returned to the bench, it is a slap in the face to your colleagues and to you for the conduct and the behavior that she brings to the bench every single day,” said prosecutor Tracy Schumacher Friday morning.

She took one last chance to lay out her case, recalling how witnesses, including attorneys, litigants and victims advocates said Judge Coleman treated them from the bench.

“The complaints are all the same,” she said. “The eye rolling, the sighting, the huffing, the cutting people off, the behavior on the bench, the not being there.”

Schumacher reminded the panel of her rulings in a dog-mauling case that had the district attorney’s office accusing her of bias in favor of a campaign donor.

“One photograph allowed in in a murder case. Raised some eyebrows. They looked into some ethics filings. They weren’t there. Raised some eyebrows,” Schumacher said.

Meanwhile, Judge Coleman’s attorney, Joe White, argued there was not nearly enough evidence to consider removing his client from office.

“How low a bar do you want to set on a situation like this?” White said. “You must protect your office.”

He laid out his reasons for why he believes the Council on Judicial Complaints conducted a one-sided and incomplete investigation for Judge Coleman’s case. It’s an investigation he said his team was forced to finish alone in pursuit of the truth.

“Imagine the canvas that was painted by their inability, the council’s inability to do a fair an unbiased investigation,” White said Friday.

Judge Coleman’s supporters insisted all along that she was not given a fair chance from the beginning, as witnessed by fellow Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons.

“Unfortunately, she has not been given the learning curve or the grace that most new judges get on the bench,” Judge Timmons said. “And before she could even get her feet wet, they picked on her in ways that are petty, ignorant, racist and completely outrageous, and it has been tough to watch.”

The vote to remove her came down to a vote of five to four. The Court on the Judiciary only required a majority vote for a decision. Presiding Judge Rebecca Nightingale, Cindy Ashwood, Paul Woodward, Thad Balkman and Douglas Kikley voted for her removal.

Vice Presiding Judge Wm. Brad Heckenkemper, Irma Newburn, Stephen Pazzo Jr. and Wallace Coppedge dissented.

The journal entry on the decision can be read here.

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