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Senate confirms Oklahoma high court justice to federal judgeship


The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick to be a federal judge in Oklahoma City, filling a spot that has remained open for years because of partisan politics.

Wyrick, 38, was confirmed by a vote of 53-47, with only Republicans in support. He will fill the vacancy created when U.S. District Judge David L. Russell took senior status.

Republicans blocked the first nominee for the spot, Suzanne Mitchell, who was former President Barack Obama’s selection in 2015.

Democrats blocked a vote last year on Wyrick, who was first nominated by President Donald Trump in April 2018. Wyrick was tapped for the judgeship again this year; a rule change pushed through last week by Senate Republicans allowed for a vote on his nomination and those for other district judgeships.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said Tuesday that Wyrick's "deep roots in the state provide him a well-rounded background to serve the Western District well." U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said he was grateful for Wyrick's patience during the process.

Inhofe and Lankford had also supported Mitchell for the job but Republicans would not give her a vote in 2016, the year Trump was elected.

Wyrick, who has spent most of his career in government, was a top assistant to former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and helped lead the unit of lawyers that challenged Obama-era laws and regulations.

His nomination was strongly opposed by liberal groups, including the Alliance for Justice, which called him “an extremely young, ideological nominee whose work as the protégé of an ethically compromised public official, Scott Pruitt, should be troubling to all Americans.”

Wyrick’s confirmation still leaves one vacancy in the Western District of Oklahoma, based in Oklahoma City. Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange took senior status last year. Trump hasn’t nominated a replacement.

The president also hasn’t made a nomination for a judgeship that splits time among the state’s federal districts. John M. O’Connor, of Tulsa, whose nomination was blocked by Democrats last year, was not nominated again this year and withdrew from consideration.

Wyrick’s departure gives Gov. Kevin Stitt two vacancies on the nine-justice Supreme Court of Oklahoma. Justice John Reif is retiring at the end of this month.

Former Gov. Mary Fallin had two Supreme Court vacancies in eight years.

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›