Tulsa’s first black presiding judge retiring

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By R.J. Young

The Frontier

The first black man to become a presiding district judge in Tulsa County is retiring due to health concerns, The Frontier has learned.

Judge Carlos Chappelle will retire at the end of this month as district judge of Tulsa County District Court.

“Yes, he is retiring effective May 31 for health reasons,” Tulsa County trial administrator Vicki Cox told The Frontier.

“On Thursday, he resigned his position as presiding judge. Judge (Rebecca Brett) Nightingale, who was the presiding judge-elect, is now the presiding judge. They (sitting judges) elected Judge (William) Musseman as the new presiding judge-elect.”

As the presiding judge, Chappelle handled budget and administrative tasks, motions to disqualify other judges from cases and helped with the hiring of special judges and heard grand juries.

Last Wednesday, We the People Oklahoma, filed a petition asking for a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. The group’s petition was filed with Chappelle.

District Judge Carlos Chappelle will retire May 31.
District Judge Carlos Chappelle will retire May 31.

It was approved by Nightengale Friday after Chappelle resigned as presiding judge. The group has 45 days to gather at least 5,000 signatures to impanel a grand jury.

The petition lists 20 areas of inquiry, most surrounding reserve deputy Robert Bates, who shot Harris April 2 during a botched gun sting. The inquiry also focuses on training that reserve deputies receive—and allegations that Bates and others may have received—partiality from Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

Chappelle was elected by his colleagues to become presiding judge-elect in 2011. Just a year before Chappelle became the first black man to obtain his position in 2014, Tom Colbert became the first black man to be named chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Chappelle had been a special judge in Tulsa County for 14 years before he was appointed a district judge by Gov. Brad Henry in 2009. He ran unopposed in the 14th District in November 2014.

A Tulsa man from the start, Chappelle graduated from Central High School where he was a two-sport athlete. In 1969, he led the Braves boys’ basketball team to the state championship.

He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma and completed his law school education at the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1980.

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Ziva Branstetter

Editor in Chief / Staff Writer

Ziva maintains she was always too nosy to be anything other than a reporter. Though she's on a new adventure with The Frontier, she spent more than 25 years in the newspaper business, making politicians nervous and making sure readers got the truth. Contact: ziva@readfrontier.com or 918-520-0406.
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