By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript
Cleveland County’s newest district judge, a self-described “reverse Okie” who came to Norman from southern California to attend the OU College of Law, took the oath of office inside a packed courtroom Friday afternoon.
As family, friends, fellow lawyers and community leaders looked on, Thad Balkman was sworn into office by Judge Charles Johnson of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
The ceremony took place in Balkman’s new courtroom as retired Judge Tom Lucas looked on. The longtime judge retired this past summer.
Balkman, a former state legislator, was appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin to fill the remainder of Lucas’ four-year term.
Balkman will be on the ballot in 2014 for a four-year term. An additional district judgeship, Cleveland County’s fourth, also will be on the 2014 ballot.
He pledged to listen to the evidence in cases, study the issues and rule accordingly, no matter the stakes of the case.
“I love this country. I love this state and I love the rule of law,” Balkman said after being robed by his father, James Balkman.
He thanked his wife, Amy, their five children — Adeline, Jackson, Miles, Harrison and Zoe — and those in the community who supported his application and appointment. Two of the Balkman’s sons lead the courtroom in the pledge of allegiance.
Judge Bill Hetherington, a former Cleveland County District Judge now on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, presided. He was joined by numerous state and local judges and members of the county bar association.
Alissa Hutter, president of the Cleveland County Bar Association, said she had come to know Balkman through his annual presentations to the county bar meeting. She said he was always well prepared and meetings were well attended when Balkman was the program.
John Williams, executive director of the Oklahoma Bar Association, agreed Balkman was well qualified for the bench.
“You have the heart, soul and mind to be a perfect judge,” Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, told Balkman to enjoy the crowd at his swearing-in because it will be short-lived.
“Better enjoy it while you can,” Cole joked. “You’re going to start losing them one at a time.”