Ardmore attorney files suit against district judge

By: Helen Headlee Email
By: Helen Headlee Email

ARDMORE, OK - Carter County District Judge Dennis Morris is being sued by Ardmore attorney Jason May.

"He was requiring indigent defendants to pay arbitrary fees, numbers that he just came up with on his own in order to get a court-appointed attorney," said May.

There are three petitioners in the suit, each of whom applied for court-appointed counsel last year.

May said each paid the $40 application fee up front and varying court appointed attorney fees ranging from $150 to $250 dollars--both authorized in Oklahoma statutes.

But he said they also paid *another fee not required by the state

"Two were required to pay $500 up front and the third one was required to pay $250 up front," said May.

May says a form is from one of the petitioners' cases has a check mark in front of the statement: 'Counsel will be appointed when the applicant contributes 500 dollars.' It also has a check mark in front of the statement: 'The applicant can afford to contribute part of the cost of counsel."

May said the petitioners believed they needed to agree to these terms in order to get legal counsel.

"What we're asking for is two things: one, for him to stop the practice of doing this and two, we're asking for him to return the money that he essentially took from our clients," May said.

The state Attorney General's office is defending Judge Morris and filed a response Monday.

The response says that these three defendants were assessed the fees, and paid them after Morris found that each had the ability to help with the costs of representation.

The AG's office moves to dismiss the case, because the petitioners cases took place last year before the application requirements were changed to eliminate a provision asking defendents to contribute to the costs of representation.

The state also says that the petitioners haven't established a clear right to have their money because they all have outstanding court costs.

The decision now rests with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.


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