Beleaguered judge to keep retirement as part of resignation agreement

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Update: The Trial Division of the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary voted late Wednesday to accept the resignation proposal offered by Curtis DeLapp and agreed to by prosecutor Sanford Coats. As per the agreement, DeLapp had to immediately resign from office, end his campaign for district judge, and is barred from running for, or being appointed to, a judicial position in Oklahoma.

DeLapp will retain his retirement, something his family said on social media was a key part of his decision to resign. Had he gone to trial and lost, he would have also lost his retirement benefits.

Read the final order here, courtesy of the Journal Record.

Curtis DeLapp.
In his bid to stave off legal proceedings against him, District Judge Curtis DeLapp agreed to never again seek or be appointed to any judicial position, according to an agreement between DeLapp and prosecutors.

In an order filed Monday with the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary Trial Division, DeLapp also agreed to resign from his position as District Judge in Nowata and Washington counties, as well as to withdraw as a candidate for judge there. He had been set to face challenger Linda Thomas in November.

Under the terms of the stipulation, DeLapp would still be eligible to receive retirement benefits when they become available.

DeLapp came under fire earlier this year when it was alleged he ordered a woman held without bond for several months for allegedly talking in court. He also ordered a woman jailed without bond for allegedly leaving sunflower seeds on a bench in the courtroom.

Earlier this month Oklahoma Chief Justice Douglas Combs accused DeLapp of several missteps, including having issued more than 200 direct contempt citations ordering jail time since 2016.

Combs wrote that DeLapp’s “use and application of direct contempt ignored each individual’s due process rights.”

“The routine denial of individuals’ access to justice constitutes oppression in office.”

DeLapp announced his resignation on Monday afternoon, stating that he had a “heavy heart but clear conscience,” and was “choosing to prioritize my family at this time.”

“While I am stepping down, I leave proud of the difficult work we have accomplished,” he wrote in his resignation.

The settlement stipulation DeLapp agreed to, if accepted by the court, would end the case against him — a case which was set for trial in October. A spokeswoman at the Office on the Judiciary told The Frontier on Tuesday that the matter was set to be taken up by the court on Wednesday afternoon.

It is expected that the court will accept the proposal, which was drafted by Sanford Coats who was serving as the prosecutor against DeLapp.

Coats “agrees with this proposed Settlement Stipulation, (and) requests this Court enter an order consistent with the terms described … and enter a final order of dismissal.

The terms agreed upon by DeLapp and Coats are:

  • DeLapp’s immediate resignation as a judge;
  • DeLapp’s withdrawal as a candidate in the November runoff election;
  • DeLapp must make a public statement that he is no longer a candidate for that office;
  • DeLapp will never again file as a candidate for a judicial position in Oklahoma;
  • DeLapp will not seek or accept appointment to any judicial position in Oklahoma;
  • DeLapp will “keep and enjoy any and all retirement benefits to which he is entitled due to his tenure as a judge in the State of Oklahoma;”
  • DeLapp cannot appeal the decision of the court;
  • The abuse of power charges could be re-filed against DeLapp should he ever violate the terms of the agreement.

Neither DeLapp nor his attorney Stephen Riley could be reached for comment on Tuesday. DeLapp’s wife, Lee Anne Cone DeLapp, who served as the treasurer on his re-election campaign, appeared to place the blame for her husband’s downfall on the woman who had been set to face him in November’s runoff election.

“She didn’t think she could beat him, so I guess you (go) and make up some crazy things,” she wrote on Facebook. “He could’ve fought it, which he wanted too (sic) but did not want to risk losing his retirement, pension, Bar license, etc. He was definitely thinking strictly of us, his family!!”

DeLapp, 51, served almost 11 years as a district judge and was an associate district judge prior to that. In Oklahoma, judges who have served at least 10 years become eligible for full retirement benefits at the age of 60.

Even though his judicial career appears to be over, DeLapp still holds a law license and could begin practice as a defense attorney or join a district attorney’s office as a prosecutor.

Next up
Josh Lee, a local attorney whose application earlier this year to free a Bartlesville woman from jail after DeLapp had ordered her held without bond for allegedly speaking in court, told The Frontier on Tuesday he intended to file a bar complaint against DeLapp.

In Combs’ petition against DeLapp, the Chief Justice alleged that DeLapp had backdated a contempt order in a case in which DeLapp had ordered a woman named Randa Ludlow to jail for six months for allegedly speaking inside his courtroom.

Ludlow was ordered released from the Washington County Jail in March by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

DeLapp, Combs wrote, had not filed the “contempt court minutes” as required by law when he ordered Ludlow to jail last year.

After the oral arguments before the Oklahoma Supreme Court on March 2 about that case, DeLapp allegedly called his court clerk and asked her to retrieve Ludlow’s case file, Combs wrote.

DeLapp, Combs said, told his clerk “not to look at the files” so she would not “get involved.”

DeLapp was later recorded on surveillance video looking at the files, unable to find the missing “contempt court minutes,” Combs wrote. DeLapp then left and later called his clerk to claim he had found the missing file that he had allegedly written in November when Ludlow was jailed.

DeLapp then used “ambiguous language” to mislead the Oklahoma Supreme Court into thinking the document was original and not backdated, Combs wrote.

“(DeLapp) in fact created the document while alone in his office on March 2, 2018,” Combs wrote.

Lee pointed to an Oklahoma Bar Association decision from earlier this year in which an attorney, Meagan Brooking, had her license suspended for 60 days for backdating a legal document in a case she was involved in.

The trial panel in Brooking’s case rejected a proposed punishment of a “public reprimand,” stating that “the intentional back-dating of official court documents is a serious offense deserve more than a public reprimand.

The trial panel unanimously recommended that Brooking be suspended “as a deterrent to … other members of the Bar who might consider such a court of action.”

“Since there is some finality to this deal now, I think the (Oklahoma Bar Association) needs to take a look at it,” Lee said. “I think, honestly, knowing what all has happened we have an ethical duty to report it to the Bar.”

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie and QuikTrip addict. He spends too much time on Twitter, but has launched what will be a failed attempt to cut back in 2018. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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