By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCCDLA) recently held its 7th annual Christmas Party at the Coyle Law Firm in downtown Oklahoma City. The event is held each year to celebrate the holiday season and to honor outstanding members of the Oklahoma legal community.
The event was hosted by OCCDLA past president John Coyle, and his son Billy Coyle, the organization’s current president.
Each year OCCDLA hands out several awards including the Robert A. Manchester Lifetime Achievement Award, the prestigious Barry Albert Award, and the group’s President’s Award
The Manchester Lifetime Achievement Award honors a career “dedicated to preserving the rights and defending the liberty of the accused.” This year’s award was given posthumously to criminal defense trial attorney David Lynn. The award was received by his wife, Ruth.
“He was a fixture at the Oklahoma County Courthouse for over 33 years and a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association for the last 45 years,” Billy said.
Fellow attorney and lifelong friend Robert Sisson commented, “David loved trials…doing them, watching them, and winning them. He loved the courthouse – it was like his home.’ Sisson added, “David had a few things that guided him during jury trials of which he won many and lost few…sincerity, simplicity, respect, humility, fairness, candor and clarity. He will be missed.”
The award is named for former president of OCCDLA, Robert Manchester, who died in November 2012. As Chief Municipal Judge for the City of The Village, Manchester led numerous pro bono actions on behalf of those deserving a “fair break,” particularly veterans. Among his many accolades, Manchester received the esteemed Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association’s Lord Thomas Erskine Award.
A passionate hot air balloonist, Manchester was known as the “Ballooning Barrister” as depicted on the award. Previous recipients of the Manchester award include attorneys Charlie F. Cox, Chris Eulberg, David Autry, Frank Courbois and Scott Adams.
Recipient of the 2017 Barry Albert Award was Billy Coyle. With a career spanning over 40 years, this award’s namesake began as a county prosecutor who later became a flamboyant public defender likened to Perry Mason.
Attending the event was Albert’s sons, Victor and Johnnie, both attorneys, and their mother Cherie, who received a bouquet of roses in honor of her husband.
“Every year I’m given the honor of handing out the award that is named after my dad,” Johnnie said. “I know what it’s like to try to follow in somebody’s footsteps. Billy has stepped out of his father’s shadow and become a lawyer. I watched him do a couple of trials this year, and he won them both. I’ve seen how he treats his clients. Billy has earned this award and I’m very proud to give it to him.”
Billy thanked his family including his wife Heather, also an attorney, his father John, and his father in law, Fred Mendoza.
“Sometimes you’re going to represent clients that others don’t want you to represent,’ Billy said. “There’s nothing more powerful than someone saying to you ‘represent me…take me all the way. And there’s also nothing more powerful than hearing the jury say the words, ‘not guilty.’ If you believe…the jury believes.” he added.
Previous Barry Albert award winners include attorneys Randy D. Evers, Doug Parr, Perry Hudson, David McKenzie, John (Johnnie) Barry Albert, John Coyle, Scott Adams, and Joi E. Miskel.
The 2017 President’s award was presented to longtime Oklahoma County prosecutor Scott Rowland, appointed last November as a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
Scott said he was surprised and honored. “I’ve always tried to apply the law fairly as I see it,” he said. “This is a tremendous honor for me because it comes from my colleagues in the bar.”
In addition to serving nearly 11 years as first assistant district attorney for the Oklahoma County DA’s office, Rowland was general counsel to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, and is a former Oklahoma assistant attorney general.
The event was attended by 150 people who enjoyed a festive holiday atmosphere, an open bar and a buffet provided by Bedlam Bar-B-Q.
“OCCDLA is strong with over 100 members – with Monthly CLE’s (Continuing Legal Education) Luncheon Seminars ranging from trial strategies to sentencing options, to life stories from the older members,” Billy said.
The OCCDLA Luncheon is held on the first Thursday of each month at 11:30 a.m. in the Ron Norick Library 4th floor auditorium. Attendance is free for members and $10 for non-members.
“Our annual OCCDLA Christmas Party is our main ceremony of the year,” Billy said. “We open the party up to all Courthouse staff, Judges and Prosecutors. We are a solid group that loves representing people at their darkest hour and this group gives us all someone to call.”