Oklahoma judge resigns

Oklahoma Judge Traci Soderstrom Resigns Amid Controversy

Oklahoma judge resigns
Oklahoma judge resigns

Oklahoma District Judge Traci Soderstrom has resigned from her position following a scandal involving her conduct during a murder trial. Soderstrom was found to have exchanged over 500 text messages with her bailiff while presiding over the trial, leading to accusations of gross neglect of duty, gross partiality in office, and other judicial conduct prohibited by the state's Constitution.

The Oklahoman made public text exchanges that contained disparaging remarks about the local defense bar, expressions of bias in favor of the defendant, and derogatory comments about a co-defendant. The judge and the bailiff also made fun of a prosecutor's appearance and praised a defense attorney's comments.

Soderstrom, who took office in January 2023, faced removal from the bench and was scheduled to go on trial in a special court. However, she chose to resign instead, acknowledging that she had texted during a trial. As part of her resignation, Soderstrom agreed not to seek another judicial position in Oklahoma and waived her right to an appeal.

The judge's conduct during the trial, which involved the murder of a 2-year-old child, has been widely criticized. The text messages, which were interspersed with emojis, were criticized for mocking prosecutors, objectifying witnesses, and referring to evidence as 'boring'. This incident has raised concerns about the integrity of the judicial process and the impartiality of the court.

In her resignation letter, Soderstrom stated that she believed she had upheld the Constitution in a fair, even-handed, and efficient manner, but admitted to having faltered. The resignation is a significant blow to the Oklahoma judiciary, with the state's Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane IV having recommended Soderstrom's removal.

The incident has sparked a broader conversation about judicial conduct and the use of personal devices in the courtroom. It is a reminder of the significance of upholding professionalism and impartiality in the judicial process.