February 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm
For my Judicial Externship, I served under Special Judge Millie Otey at Tulsa County District Court. Judge Otey handles four dockets: Small Claims, Forcible Entry Detainer, Post Judgment Asset Hearings, and Exemptions. In addition, Judge Otey also covers dockets for other judges when they are either unavailable or when she is “on-call.” These other dockets include marriage consents, consent adoptions, artificial insemination consents, protective orders, arraignments, misdemeanors, and guardianships. It is important to understand that, while my externship assignment falls under the title of “Small Claims Court,” my experiences were not limited to just Small Claims. I gained a wealth of knowledge by observing a variety of different dockets during the 180 hours I served as her extern during the fall semester. The purpose of this blog-entry is to report and reflect on certain things I observed during my time as Judge Otey’s extern in Small Claims court.
After my tenure with Judge Otey, I am left with some thoughts and reflections on my experiences. I wanted to take on a judicial externship because I thought it would provide me with practical legal experience and introduce me into the Tulsa legal community. Originally, I am from the State of Ohio and went to college in North Carolina. By coming to Oklahoma, I left behind the connections and roots I had established from high school and college. I believed that if I planned to practice in Oklahoma I needed to introduce myself to the legal community where the University of Tulsa is located. A judicial externship is a good means to meet local attorneys, judges, and civil servants. It ultimately proved to be a good way to network in Tulsa.
The externship met my expectations; It provided me with a means to learn about the practice of law while introducing me to the Tulsa legal community. Procedurally, I learned how a variety of dockets are conducted. Judge Otey handles four dockets: Small Claims, Forcible Entry Detainer, Post Judgment Asset Hearings, and Exemptions. In addition, Judge Otey also covers dockets for other judges when they are either unavailable or when she is “on-call.” These other dockets include marriage consents, consent adoptions, artificial insemination consents, protective orders, arraignments, misdemeanors, and guardianships. I gained a wealth of knowledge by observing these different dockets. I now know how all of these dockets are conducted, what the proper procedure is for each one, and the evidential burdens the parties must meet for trials and hearings. Additionally, I know the clerks, judges, and attorneys who work throughout the first floor of the courthouse. Judge Otey was amazing at introducing me to important people in the county. Networking opportunities were presented every day and Judge Otey did not let me miss any of them.
What I liked about the externship experience was the variety of legal issues I encountered each day. For instance, each day certain dockets are called by Judge Otey. In between the dockets, Judge Otey handles other legal issues that crop up; conferences, meetings with other civil servants, criminal issues regarding warrants and a multitude of others. So I learned, not just about what was going on in the courtroom, but also about what was going on in chambers. I learned how judges function in the court system and the role they fill in the Tulsa County bureaucracy.
What I learned about the judicial decision-making process is that it is built up of various elements that are structured on the law. The elements may include mediated agreements the judge leaves undisturbed, whether proper service was performed on the defendant to let the judge even hear the matter before her, whether the plaintiff followed proper procedure in picking the correct venue, amongst others. Beneath elements, such as these, lies the law. Everything that takes place must have a proper legal basis in order for the judge to rule. The judicial decision-making process just means applying the law to the facts presented.
I will be a better advocate, researcher, and writer because of my externship. I learned about client service by watching the judge and attorneys in their professional capacity. I researched for brief and motion projects as well as for the bond schedule. My writing skills were further expanded by my work reviewing and writing on grant requests for the Oklahoma Bar Foundation.
 Note: The “Special” in Special Judge means that she is limited to a special jurisdiction. For example, Special Judge Otey cannot try a murder case unless the parties waive.
 Note: Judges for the Tulsa County share a duty to be “on-call” during nights, weekends, and holidays. Duties when a judge is on-call include actions like taking intake at the jail on Saturday and Sunday mornings, signing search warrants, and setting bail amounts.
 Note: I served as an intern during 2012 Summer and as an Extern during the 2012 Fall. The difference between an intern and extern is a matter of credits: Interns do not get course credit hours from the school while externs do.