Reversing Linda Morrissey
To err is human. Mistakes will be made. Nobody's perfect.
But when a district judge errs, it's a costly mistake. The wronged party, who has already paid for attorneys in a case, must pay even more for the cost of an appeal. There are additional court costs. If the case goes to the State Supreme Court, Tulsa County residents bear the additional burden and cost of travel to Oklahoma City. Then there's the stress of waiting months or years for the final resolution of the case. If the district judge is reversed, the case will likely be remanded -- sent back to the original judge to fix the mistake and reconsider the decision. More delays, more lawyers' fees, more anxiety.
A search through the Oklahoma Bar Journal reveals District Judge Linda Morrissey, running for re-election, has committed a long list of errors that have been reversed by Oklahoma's higher courts. In at least one case, the appeals court goes so far as to say that Linda Morrissey abused her discretion.
Here are just a few of Linda Morrissey's reversals (all emphasis mine). The summaries and paraphrasing are my own; please click the links to review the original information on which my summaries are based.
Court of Civil Appeals DF - 106739: In a foreclosure case, the defendant's attorney pulls a surprise during preliminary proceedings in Linda Morrissey's chambers: He contested, for the first time, the authenticity of the note and mortgage. The bank requested a continuance, because it wasn't prepared to respond to this previously undisclosed accusation. Linda Morrissey said no. The bank offered to present a copy. Judge Morrissey said no; the bank had to have the original note. The bank said it had the original note, where it normally keeps such documents, just not in the courtroom. Morrissey awarded the defendants -- the people who didn't pay their mortgage -- $55,172.51 in court costs and attorney's fees.
The Court of Civil Appeals unanimously ruled that Linda Morrissey "abused [her] discretion" in the case. Linda Morrissey's abuse of discretion took 17 months to correct.
(Details on the case from the April 24, 2010, issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Vol. 81, No. 12, p. 1106.)
In two criminal cases, State of Oklahoma vs. James Ricky Ezell III and State of Oklahoma vs. Robert Mark Stephens, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Linda Morrissey's "'policy' of running sentences consecutively" constituted "an abuse of discretion as it incumbent upon a trial court to consider all sentencing options available."
2007 OK CIV APP 120: This involved a couple who left a sum of money to their two children, a son and a daughter, in the form of a trust. The son, who was trustee, borrowed $200,000 from the trust for himself and a business partner, with no documentation of the loans, and he concealed his share of the debt.
The son sought to get himself named personal representative of his parents' estates; and his sister, a beneficiary of the trust, objected that he was unfit "due to serious and substantial conflicts of interest, breaches of trust and self-dealing involving the sole asset of the estates," namely the $200,000 loan. He had also delegated check-writing privileges to his wife, who paid "her sister-in-law a large sum of money...." All of this was in the district court record, according to the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals.
Morrissey even denied the daughter "the opportunity to present rebuttal evidence and closing arguments."
Linda Morrissey appointed the son as personal representative, over the daughter's objection, despite "express[ing]... concern about Appellee's obligation to the Trust and his delegation of trust administration duties to his wife." The appeals court ruled: "This was error" on Morrissey's part. The evidence "clearly demonstrated [the son's] lack of integrity as that term is defined" in 58 O.S. 102. The appeals court reversed Morrissey's decision.
In this case, it took nine months to fix Linda Morrissey's mistake, from the date of her erroneous decision to the appeals court's reversal.
2008 OK CIV APP 73: A mother put a child up for adoption and relinquished her parental rights in writing. The father objected to the termination of his parental rights and although his attorney had announced at a hearing that he would agree to give up his rights if he would be allowed visitation, the father withdrew his consent to such an arrangement and never signed a permanent relinquishment. Judge Linda Morrissey went ahead and issued an order terminating the father's parental rights despite the lack of a permanent relinquishment. The appeals court unanimously ruled that Morrissey "erred as a matter of law" in issuing a termination order without the father's signed permanent relinquishment. Morrissey's error took about a year to fix.
2006 OK CIV APP 90: A man designated the adult children from his first marriage as beneficiaries of his IRA. Upon his death, his surviving spouse from a later marriage sought an injunction to keep the money from going to the children, and Linda Morrissey granted the injunction, basing her decision on Michigan law. The Court of Civil Appeals concluded that Morrissey's "grant of the preliminary injunction was erroneous as a matter of law and is VACATED." Fixing Linda Morrissey's mistake took 17 months, from the date of the erroneous injunction to the appeals court's decision.
Court of Civil Appeals DF - 106937: The Court of Civil Appeals ruled that Linda Morrissey "erred when [she] entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff after finding that Defendants' defense of lack of contract was not encompassed within the court's pre-trial conference order listing claims and defenses of the parties."
It took 17 months to correct Linda Morrissey's error.
(Details on the case from the August 21, 2010, issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Vol. 81, No. 22, p. 1832.)
Court of Civil Appeals IN - 100409: The Court of Civil Appeals ruled that Linda Morrissey erroneously granted summary judgment when there were contested issues of material fact to be resolved regarding a revocable trust and will. This Morrissey mistake took 13 months to fix.
(Details on the case from the February 19, 2005, issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Vol. 76, No. 7, p. 567.)