RECOGNITION OF EXCELLENCE

Annual awards are presented at various events during the OBA Annual Meeting. For the full schedule, including events at which awards are presented, see the Program of Events. Award winners will be announced the week of Sept. 18.

Click the + next to each recipient’s name to read their story.

LAW SCHOOL LUNCHEONS - WEDNESDAY, NOV. 1

Oklahoma City University School of Law

Outstanding Law Student

Aimee Philips, Oklahoma City

Aimee Phillips is a Hatton W. Sumners scholar at the OCU School of Law, where she has made the dean’s list and faculty honor roll every semester and won several CALI awards. Ms. Phillips has created (and leads) two new student organizations, the Poverty Law Group and the Catholic Law Students Association. She was the 2016-2017 Member of the Year of the Hand Inn of the Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society. She has also served as an academic fellow and a research assistant at the OCU School of Law. Ms. Phillips’ paper “A Practical Guide to Ending Homelessness” has been accepted for publication by the Seattle Journal for Social Justice and will be published in the journal’s spring 2018 issue.

Ms. Phillips was a participant on the OCU School of Law team that won the San Francisco Regional of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. She interned with the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s office as well as private firms. She will be working in the civil litigation department of Crowe & Dunlevy after graduation.

Before law school, Ms. Phillips taught theology at Bishop McGuinness High School and led the Peru Mission for several years. She graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a bachelor’s degree in theology and religious studies. Ms. Phillips is a founding member of the Oklahoma County Homeless Task Force and a volunteer with the Homeless Alliance, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Hotdogs for the Homeless.

University of Oklahoma College of Law

Outstanding Law Student

Eleanor Burg, San Antonio

Eleanor Burg is a third-year law student at the OU College of Law. She currently serves as the managing editor of the Oklahoma Law Review and as the director of the annual 1L Moot Court Competition.

She has actively participated in advocacy competitions, being recognized as a Top 10 Speaker in the college of law’s 1L Moot Court Competition and a Top 5 Speaker in the Calvert Moot Court Competition. Additionally, she achieved first place regionally and third place nationally in the International Trademark Association Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition.

Ms. Burg is also a member of the Business Law Society and the Organization for the Advancement of Women in Law. During her second year, she served as the lead mentor to first-year students, working directly with students in the class of 2019 at the college of law.

She was the recipient of the J. Marshall Huser scholarship as well as the John B. and Elizabeth B. Cheadle scholarship for outstanding service to the law school. Ms. Burg has interned with the OU Office of Technology Development, the OU Office of Legal Counsel, McAfee & Taft and Phillips Murrah. After graduation, she will start her legal career as an associate at McAfee & Taft in Oklahoma City.

University of Tulsa College of Law

Outstanding Law Student

Mary Hope Forsyth, Tulsa

Mary Hope Forsyth is a third-year student at the TU College of Law. She is the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, a student member of the Council Oak/Johnson-Sontag Inn of Court and a member of Phi Delta Phi. She has earned eight CALI Excellence for the Future Awards and the George and Jean Price Award. After graduation, she will be an associate attorney at GableGotwals in Tulsa.

During law school, she has gained experience at multiple levels of the federal court system. She interned for Chief Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, former U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson and U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary, the Northern U.S. District of Oklahoma and, this spring, will extern for 10th Circuit Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour.

Ms. Forsyth’s law review comment, “Mutually Assured Protection: Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian Influence on American Copyright Law” will be published in the Tulsa Law Review spring 2018 issue. Before attending law school, her examination of the historical and current use of the word “forum” was published in Princeton University Press’ “Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communication and media studies with minors in English and philosophy from TU, where she was also an Oklahoma Center for the Humanities research fellow, Honors Scholar, Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar. Outside of law school, she is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist at her Catholic parish.

ANNUAL LUNCHEON - THURSDAY, NOV. 2

Award of Judicial Excellence

For excellence of character, job performance or achievement while a judge and service to the bench, bar and community

Judge Jill C. Weedon, Arapaho

The 2017 Award of Judicial Excellence recipient is Judge Jill C. Weedon. Judge Weedon received a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in 1989 and a J.D. from the OU College of Law in 1991. Prior to serving on the bench, she worked in private practice. She began her judicial career in 1999 as a special judge and in 2009 was appointed by Gov. Brad Henry to serve as associate district judge in Custer County.

Judge Weedon is an experienced settlement judge and has served on the Washita-Custer County Drug Court since its inception. She enjoys working on the family farm and hiking. Along with a group of friends, she has summited five 14,000 foot peaks and hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim.

She is an attorney coach for the Clinton High School legal teams. Her teams have won two OBA Mock Trial championships and placed fourth at the National High School Mock Trial Championship in 2012.

Liberty Bell Award

For non-lawyers or lay organizations for promoting or publicizing matters regarding the legal system

San Nguyen, Oklahoma City

San Nguyen of Oklahoma City is this year’s Liberty Bell Award recipient. Deacon Nguyen received his law degree from the Saigon University of Law. He immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in April 1975 before the fall of Saigon to the communist north.

In 1975, he went to work for Catholic Charities and spent the next four years attending school to become a deacon. As a deacon, he has assisted members of the Vietnamese community and members of other minority communities in obtaining legal representation in a variety of matters, including immigration, citizenship, documentation, vehicle accidents, civil and criminal justice proceedings.

His experience, Vietnamese law degree, master’s degree from OCU and special student status at the OU College of Law, led him to work as an interpreter and translator at the federal court in 1980. Deacon Nguyen also served as the attorney admissions and naturalization clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma for more than 32 years. He was also appointed as a U.S. immigration and naturalization examiner for the Dallas INS Office as a U.S. immigration inspector for the Houston INS Office.

In 2003, Deacon Nguyen began his work in prison ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He assisted prisoners in obtaining legal representation by coordinating with the Public Defender’s Office and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. He obtained special prison ministry training from the Department of Justice and as a national prisoner chaplain, he was authorized to visit prisoners in any prison in the United States. Deacon Nguyen retired from prison ministry and federal court service in 2015. In 2016, he published A Book on U.S. Applicable Law, a book comparing U.S. law and Vietnamese law.

Joe Stamper Distinguished Service Award

To an OBA member for long-term service to the bar association or contributions to the legal profession

Judge Jon K. Parsley, Guymon

The Joe Stamper Distinguished Service Award honors those individuals who volunteer countless hours to further the goals of the OBA. Judge Jon K. Parsley is this year’s winner. Judge Parsley was born and raised in Guymon, only moving away briefly for school. He is a 1987 Guymon High graduate. After high school, he earned a full-ride debate scholarship to Central State University.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in 1991, he attended the OU College of Law and received his J.D. in 1994. After being admitted to the bar he returned to Guymon to practice with the Law Offices of David K. Petty. In 2003 he opened his own general law practice. Judge Parsley took the bench in 2014, and currently serves as the district judge of Cimarron, Texas, Beaver and Harper counties.

Judge Parsley served as YLD chair in 2002 and on the OBA Board of Governors from 2003 to 2009. He was OBA president in 2009. He served on the Professional Responsibility Commission, Administration of Justice Task Force, Communications Task Force, General Counsel Hiring Committee, Bench and Bar Committee, Civil Procedure Committee, Budget Committee, Long Range Planning Committee and chaired the OBA Mentorship Task Force.

As a lifelong Guymon resident, he serves in the local food bank and in youth sports organizations. He also served on the steering committee which resulted in the establishment and opening of a Legal Aid Office in Guymon to serve the panhandle counties.

Alma Wilson Award

For an OBA member who has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of Oklahoma children

Carolyn Thompson, Edmond

Carolyn Thompson is the 2017 Alma Wilson Award recipient. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tulane University, in 1971, Ms. Thompson taught at a middle school in inner-city New Orleans. In 1983, she graduated with honors from the OCU School of Law where she taught family law as an adjunct professor from 1986-1996. She is an ongoing guest lecturer at the OU College of Law and has practiced family law in Oklahoma City for over 30 years.

Ms. Thompson serves as chair of the Advisory Board for the Academy of Law & Public Safety at Douglass High School in northeast Oklahoma City. The academy is comprised of approximately 50 students who live in difficult, low-income home situations. The academy teaches students about our legal system and helps prepare them for careers in law, law enforcement and public safety. Ms. Thompson coaches the academy mock trial team, teaches law-related classes, arranges classroom speakers, field trips, student internships and also secures grants to fund the academy program.

Neil E. Bogan Professionalism Award

To an OBA member practicing 10 years or more who for conduct, honesty, integrity and courtesy best represents the highest standards of the legal profession

Judge Bryan Dixon, Oklahoma City

Judge Bryan C. Dixon is the 2017 recipient of the Neil E. Bogan Professionalism Award for his continued commitment to meeting high standards in the legal profession. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1974 from OU and in 1977, a J.D. from the OU College of Law. After admission to the bar he went into private practice. In 1981, he began his career on the bench as an associate municipal judge in Del City. From 1983 to 1985 he served as a special judge in District 7. He served as an Oklahoma County district judge until his retirement in September of this year.

He is a former president of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, Bohannon Inn of Court and the Oklahoma Law Library. He is a member of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Information Technology Business Committee and the Del City Kiwanis Club. He served six years on the Board of Directors of the Mid-Del Youth and Family Center. The Oklahoma County Law Library was renamed in his honor in August of this year.

John E. Shipp Award for Ethics

To an OBA member who has truly exemplified the ethics of the legal profession either by 1) acting in accordance with the highest standards in the face of pressure to do otherwise or 2) by serving as a role model for ethics to the other members of the profession

Judge Millie Otey, Tulsa

Judge Millie Otey is the 2017 recipient of the John E. Shipp Award for Ethics. Judge Otey received her J.D. from the TU College of Law, a master’s degree from TU and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado.

She has served as a special district judge for the 14th Judicial District since 2000 and has continued to serve the legal profession through service to the OBA. In particular, she has served as the Grants and Awards Committee chair and president for the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and has also served as president of the Tulsa County Bar Association and Tulsa County Bar Foundation.

She currently serves as Bank of America Task Force chairperson for the Oklahoma Bar Foundation as well as an adjunct professor at TU teaching “Legal Issues for Museum Professionals.” Judge Otey’s dedication to serving the public is further demonstrated through the establishment of in-court pro bono and mediation programs.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY - FRIDAY, NOV. 3

Outstanding County Bar Association Award

For meritorious efforts and activities

Noble County Bar Association

The Noble County Bar Association (NCBA) is a 2017 recipient of the Outstanding County Bar Association Award for its continued commitment to the community by its members. As a small bar association of only nine members, the NCBA has managed to donate almost 100 percent of its dues to scholarships for local students. Over the past six years, the association has awarded approximately $10,000 in scholarships. Members also volunteer their time participating in education programs for youth in the county including educating minors on the legal ramifications of turning 18. Members have also given free legal services to law enforcement, first responders and current and former members of the military.

Oklahoma County Bar Association

The Oklahoma County Bar Association (OCBA) has been selected as a 2017 recipient of the Outstanding County Bar Association Award for its continued commitment to the community and its members. The OCBA consists of approximately 2,500 members including 12 committees, three sections and one division.

The association stays active in the community through Law Day celebrations, volunteering in local schools as “reading buddies,” hosting book and school supply drives, fundraising to benefit the Regional Food Bank and delivering food and toys for the Salvation Army’s Christmas programs. The OCBA also continues to volunteer with the Family Junction Youth Center, the Edwards Redeemer Nursing Home, Juvenile Court Probation Department and Cavett Kids Foundation.

Hicks Epton Law Day Award

For individuals or organizations for noteworthy Law Day activities

Seminole County Bar Association

The 2017 Hicks Epton Law Day Award goes to the Seminole County Bar Association (SCBA), for the significantly noteworthy work and organization of the Law Day Chair Judge Timothy Olsen, Co-Chairs Gordon Melson and Jack Cadenhead and all participating attorneys. Law Day continues to be a special holiday in Seminole County. The Law Day Forum Luncheon was preceded by a quality, long-standing seven-hour CLE seminar. Just as it was done in the 1950s, SCBA members began their 2017 Law Day festivities by going to all 10 county schools and speaking to junior high students about the 14th Amendment, their local county government and the roles and responsibilities of each county officer. There was also an essay contest open to all public junior high school students and high school seniors in the county.

The Annual Law Day Forum Luncheon was held at the Rudolph Hargrave Civic Center in Wewoka where the essay contest winners were recognized and received either a $500 college scholarship or a gift card. Attendees listened to OBA President Linda Thomas and Chief Justice Douglas Combs. OBA Past President Hicks Epton of Wewoka Oklahoma was the original founder of Law Day, which is now recognized nationally.

Earl Sneed Award

For outstanding continuing legal education contributions

Aaron Bundy, Tulsa

Aaron Bundy, a 2006 graduate of the TU College of Law and partner at Fry & Elder, focuses his practice on trial work in both family and criminal law. His family law practice includes bench trials in divorce, paternity, protective order and adoption cases, as well as jury trials in juvenile matters and criminal cases involving allegations of abuse or neglect.

Mr. Bundy is an active member of the Tulsa County Bar Association (TCBA) Family Law Section, the TCBA Litigation Section, Tulsa County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is also a member of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

In pursuit of professional improvement as teachers and trial lawyers, Mr. Bundy and M. Shane Henry seek out their own education from all over the country, including NACDL, Trial Lawyers College, NITA and AAJ. The two have also trained and collaborated with acclaimed attorney Roger Dodd.

Mr. Bundy and Mr. Henry speak together across the country to educate paralegals, lawyers and judges about trial-related issues and developments. Their presentations are constantly being updated based on their education and trial experience.

M. Shane Henry, Tulsa

Shane Henry is a 2006 graduate of the TU College of Law and partner at Fry & Elder. Licensed to practice in both Oklahoma and Texas, his practice centers on trial work in both family and criminal law. His family law practice includes bench trials in divorce, paternity, protective order and adoption cases, as well as jury trials in juvenile matters and criminal cases involving allegations of abuse or neglect and murder.

Mr. Henry was named the 2016 Oklahoma Family Law Attorney of the Year by the OBA Family Law Section. He served as the 2014 chair of the OBA Family Law Section and is an active member of the bar, including the OBA and Tulsa County Bar Association (TCBA) Family Law sections, the TCBA Litigation Section, Tulsa County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is also a member of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

Golden Gavel Award

For OBA Committees and Sections performing with a high degree of excellence

OBA Indian Law Section

The OBA Indian Law Section has been selected as the 2017 Golden Gavel recipient. The Indian Law Section was founded in 1989 after it was approved by the OBA Board of Governors. The section provides Indian law education to OBA members and offers generous scholarships to those planning to practice Indian law. After years of dwindling participation, the section has made significant changes to revamp offerings and provide better service for its members and for the greater legal community. Chris Tytanic serves as section chair.

Outstanding Young Lawyer Award

For a member of the OBA Young Lawyers Division for service to the profession

Tiece Dempsey, Oklahoma City

Tiece Dempsey received a bachelor’s degree in business in 2001 from OSU, a master’s in health administration from OU in 2004 and a J.D. from the OCU School of Law in 2012. While in law school, she served as chapter president of the National Black Law Students Association.

 

After law school, she worked as a policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute. She then went to work as a judicial law clerk with the U.S. District Courts. She recently took a position with the Office of the Federal Public Defender.

She is chair of the OBA Diversity Committee. Under her leadership, the committee established the annual Law School Admissions Bootcamp event in Oklahoma City. She has also led the committee to provide CLE presentations on issues like implicit bias and civil rights.

Community service continues to be important to Ms. Dempsey. She serves on The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM) board and Northeast Academy High School Career Tech Advisory Board. She also volunteers with City Cares Whiz Kid program and is an active servant at Wildewood Christian Church.

Bryon J. Will, Yukon

Bryon J. Will is the principal of The Law Office of Byron J. Will PLLC where he practices estate planning, business planning, real estate, oil and gas, agriculture and bankruptcy law. Mr. Will received his bachelor’s degree in animal science from OSU. Before attending law school, he worked as a sales representative for an animal health supply company and then in the Commercial Agricultural Lending Department at the Bank of Oklahoma.

While working at the Bank of Oklahoma, he earned his MBA at UCO in 2005, and in 2008 he earned his J.D. from the OCU School of Law. While in law school, Mr. Will worked for the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Office and as an intern. He also worked with Haupt Brooks Vandruff Cloar on commercial and consumer bankruptcy cases. In 2008, Mr. Will opened his solo law practice which he still runs today.

He is a member of the American Bar Association, Oklahoma Bar Foundation, Noble County Bar Association, Oklahoma County Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a past member of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg and William J. Holloway American Inns of Court. He currently serves as a governor on the OBA Board of Governors.

Since 2010, Mr. Will has been serving the OBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) as a director from 2010 through 2014, and as an executive from 2013 to the end of 2017 consecutively in the offices of secretary, treasurer, chair-elect, chair and now immediate past chair.

Outstanding Service to the Public Award

For significant community service by an OBA member or bar-related entity

Jason Lowe, Oklahoma City

Jason Lowe is a 2017 Outstanding Service to the Public Award recipient. Mr. Lowe practices criminal law and is the founding member of The Lowe Law Firm. The firm has offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Mr. Lowe also serves as Oklahoma state representative for House District 97. He is the first African-American attorney from District 97 appointed to the House Judiciary Committee.

Every year Rep. Lowe hosts a Family Fun Day, a nonprofit charity event that, over the last eight years, has provided over 10,000 families with free school supplies, health screenings and haircuts so kids can be equipped to start the school year and in 2017 he gave away 30 tablets to children. He also founded the Know Your Rights forum that educates Oklahomans on legal matters and to obtain feedback on important issues facing the community. Furthermore, Rep. Lowe founded the Triple E Youth Initiative, a program that provides funds to various local youth departments, including but not limited to a $500 monthly gift that he gives to local churches to help empower, encourage and educate our teens and future leaders of tomorrow.

Most recently, Mr. Lowe has successfully secured three consecutive not guilty verdicts for wrongly accused defendants. His success in such trials has allowed him to become a resource for local news stations, including KFOR Channel 4, KOCO Channel 5 and Oklahoma City Fox 25 concerning officer-involved shootings and various legal issues.

Oklahoma Lawyers for Children Inc.

Oklahoma Lawyers for Children Inc. (OLFC) is an organization of over 1,100 specially trained volunteer attorneys who provide legal representation for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes. In addition to being the exclusive provider of legal representation for children at daily emergency show cause hearings, volunteer attorneys assigned to deprived cases continue to represent the child’s expressed wishes or best interests until the child is safely returned home or permanently placed in a safe home. OLFC’s citizen volunteers number in the hundreds and assist OLFC with coordinating meetings between attorney and child, events for foster children, tutoring, life skills trainings, mentoring, reunification celebrations, courtroom needs, toys for children in court and more. OLFC receives no taxpayer dollars thereby saving Oklahoma over $4.8 million dollars in required legal services each year.

OLFC was founded in 1997 by Don R. Nicholson II and D. Kent Meyers after the two visited the Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Center and the Pauline Mayer Children’s Shelter during a child watch tour. In 1998, Oklahoma County District Court judges signed an administrative order authorizing OLFC to be assigned cases directly from the Juvenile Public Defender’s Office and the Juvenile Court. In 2011, another administrative order was signed expanding OLFC’s services authorizing OLFC attorney volunteers to be appointed in special circumstance cases in the District Court of Oklahoma County. OLFC has also fulfilled other district courts requests legal services for abused and neglected children.

Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service

By an OBA member or bar-related entity

Kendra Coleman, Oklahoma City

Kendra Coleman is a 1994 graduate of Star Spencer High School, where she was salutatorian of her graduating class. Subsequently, she attended Fort Valley State University on a full academic scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and later earning a MBA with an emphasis in marketing from the OCU Mendes School of Business and a J.D. from the OCU School of Law. Upon passing the Oklahoma State Bar, she formed The Gill Law Firm PLLC, where she continues to practice primarily family, criminal and juvenile law.

Ms. Coleman partners with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and the Mary Mahoney Medical Clinic, providing a walk-in legal clinic to the underserved of the Spencer community. Through her volunteer service at the clinic, she takes on pro bono clients that need more help than a walk-in clinic can give.

She regularly participates in voter registration drives and voter education forums. She also participates in school career days, teaching kids how attorneys can make a positive impact on the community.

Golden Quill Award

Best Oklahoma Bar Journal article (selected by Board of Editors)

Mbilike Mwafulirwa, Tulsa

Mbilike Mwafulirwa is a recipient of the Maurice Merrill Golden Quill Award for his article “Autonomous Vehicles and the Trolley Problem: An Ethical and Liability Conundrum,” co-authored with Spencer C. Pittman. He practices with Brewster and DeAngelis PLLC, in Tulsa. His practice focuses on general civil litigation, civil rights and appellate law both in state and federal court. Mr. Mwafulirwa received his LL.B. from the University of Wales in 2009 and his Master of Law and J.D. from the TU College of Law in 2010 and 2012. While at the TU College of Law, he was a member of the Constitutional Law National Appellate Moot Team, the Energy Law Journal and he was also inducted into the Order of Barristers – in recognition of excellence in advocacy.

While in practice, Mr. Mwafulirwa has achieved some notable milestones. He was appellate counsel in a number of important Oklahoma constitutional law decisions such Steidley v. Singer, Steidley v. Community Newspapers Inc. and Anderson v. Wilken.

Although Mr. Mwafulirwa’s articles have frequently been published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, this latest project – “Autonomous Vehicles and the Trolley Problem: An Ethical and Liability Conundrum” – is most dear to him. That is because, as other eminent policy makers in the United States have recognized, the “self-driving car raises more possibilities and more questions than perhaps any other transportation innovation,” said former Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx. To dare to do the impossible, in his opinion, is to discover the fullness of yourself.

Spencer Pittman, Tulsa

Spencer C. Pittman is an attorney at Winters & King Inc. He practices in the areas of personal injury and corporate litigation and transactions. He received a bachelor’s degree from OU in 2010 and a J.D. from the TU College of Law in 2013. He began his career defending national insurance companies in the areas of negligence, personal injury, trucking litigation, construction defect and both residential and commercial property damage.

Mr. Pittman is an avid writer and public speaker. He has presented on legal defense and protection of churches in litigation. He has also published several articles for the Oklahoma Bar Journal. His most recent article, co-authored by Mbilike Mwafulirwa, “Autonomous Vehicles and the Trolley Problem: An Ethical and Liability Conundrum,” provides an interesting look into the legal side of self-driving cars and earned him the award.

Mr. Pittman is active in his community. He serves on the Board of Directors for Counseling and Recovery Services of Oklahoma (CRSOK), a behavioral health organization, and as a legal mentor to Tulsa Regional Chamber member businesses in the Forge: Bull-Pen. Mr. Pittman also serves on the Board of Adjustment for the City of Bixby and as a member on the Steering Committee for the City of Bixby Comprehensive Plan.