The Norman Transcript

October 4, 2013

Former legislator Thad Balkman hired to county district judge post

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Attorney and former legislator Thad Balkman, of Norman, was named Thursday by Gov. Mary Fallin to serve as a district judge for Cleveland County.

Balkman will finish out the term of District Judge Tom Lucas, who retired Aug. 1 at 79, with a little more than a year left in his term.

Balkman said he intends to run for a full four-year term in fall 2014.

"I obviously will be on a learning curve in getting to know how to apply the law as a judge," said Balkman, 41.

Serving as a lawmaker, consultant and lobbyist, Balkman said he thinks that experience will help him evaluate facts in a case like he did with a myriad of bills at the state Capitol.

Besides Balkman, other finalists were Steve Stice, a special judge for Cleveland County, and Blaine Nice, former longtime municipal attorney for the city of Norman who is now in private practice.

Thirteen attorneys originally filed for the judicial post. The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission interviewed the top nine candidates and narrowed the search to three.

The commission forwarded the names to the governor, who made the final selection this week.

Cleveland County Chief District Judge Tracy Schumacher said Thursday that all the judges at the courthouse “are excited to have Thad join us.”

“He has already been to the courthouse to see us,” she said. “Thad is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.”

All three finalists were qualified for different reasons, she said.  

Schumacher said Cleveland County needs the relief due to heavy judicial caseloads.

“On Wednesday, I had 122 criminal defendants on my docket,” she said.

From 2000 to 2006, Balkman served as a Republican in the state House of Representatives.

He was defeated in 2006 by Democrat Wallace Collins.

“Wallace beat me once, but I beat him two other times,” Balkman said.

In the Legislature, Balkman said, “I learned a lot about drug and mental health courts” that have a major impact in helping those arrested for drug and alcohol abuse.

He also promoted legislation to direct $8 million to be used to establish 10 drug court programs that seek alternatives to incarceration.

Balkman was a co-author of legislation authorizing “Choose Life” license plates for the public.

“This was not anti-abortion legislation. It was pro-adoption,” he said, noting that licenses plate proceeds go to agencies that provide adoption services.

For the past four years, Balkman has worked as a consultant and lobbyist at the state Capitol.

Balkman’s chief client was the Oklahoma Lawyers Association that has approximately 400 members. His job was to monitor laws being proposed and assess how they would affect fellow lawyers. He also talked with lawmakers about how proposed laws could affect their constituents.

Balkman is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as a volunteer bishop. He and his wife, Amy, have five children.

Born in southern California, Balkman said that his ancestors were among some of the first settlers in Oklahoma, including maternal great-great grandfather, John Otey, who made the 1889 land run. He settled in Payne County near the Cimmaron River and the town of Perkins.