Michael Chionopoulos | January 2, 2009
…but two had already suffered unconstitutional jail sentences at the hand of his honor
The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned Associate Judge Richard Kirby, who jailed two litigants for Direct Contempt of Court, holding that the litigants’ constitutional rights were violated by Judge Richard Kirby (see In Re J.H., 2008 OK 104). While the Court of Civil Appeals upheld Judge Richard Kirby in his Direct Contempt of the two litigants, the Oklahoma Supreme Court opted to actually apply the Constitution. The Supreme Court was concerned with those pesky little things called CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS! You know, like oversight by Judge Richard Kirby of the right to due process – both substantive and procedural – the right to counsel when one is at risk to lose liberty/freedom etc. As it turns out, Judge Richard Kirby denied the litigants due process by charging them with “direct contempt of court” – as opposed to the proper charge Judge Richard Kirby could have brought, if there was one, of “indirect contempt of court.” While there is a well-reasoned dissent supporting Judge Richard Kirby’s decision, ultimately the Supreme Court reversed in a 7 to 2 decision mandating that all litigants in future such contempt proceedings be given the fundamental rights to notice, adequate time for preparing a defense, a jury trial (if demanded) etc. Unfortunately for the two litigants involved, the Supreme Court’s ruling is of little consequence – they had long since served the unconsitutional sentences, improvidently doled out by Judge Richard Kirby, in the Oklahoma County Jail prior to the appeal. Someone had to pay the tuition cost for Judge Richard Kirby’s constitutional education. It is just sad that two people had to suffer an unconsititional jail sentence to pay for Judge Richard Kirby’s eduction in the fundamental legal principles on which this nation was founded! Unlike the student loan program, there is no way Judge Richard Kirby can repay the debt to the litigants who paid dearly for his education by serving jail time. Merry Christmas to those who were wrongly jailed at the hands of his honor.