By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCCDLA) will hold its 7th annual Christmas Party on Thursday, December 14 in downtown Oklahoma City. The organization holds the event each year to celebrate the holiday season and to honor several of its members.
Festivities will take place at Coyle Law Firm, 125 Park Avenue, led by OCCDLA past president, John Coyle, and his son Billy Coyle, OCCDLA current president.
Each year several members are recognized for their outstanding service with the OCCDLA President’s Award, the prestigious Barry Albert Award, and the Robert A. Manchester Lifetime Achievement Award.
The President’s award honors individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in service to the work and cause of OCCDLA.
In 2016, the President’s award was given posthumously to the Honorable Judge Donald L. Deason. His sudden and unexpected death in July of that year was considered a huge loss for the Oklahoma County judicial community. The award was received by his wife, Chris, a well-known family attorney in Oklahoma City.
“Don Deason was a friend to all at the courthouse,” Billy said. “He was very fair to both the prosecution and defense and will truly be missed.”
The Barry Albert Award is named after a man whose legal career spanned more than 40 years. Albert began as a county prosecutor who later became a “flamboyant” public defender likened to Perry Mason.
After Albert’s death in 2009, Bob Ravitz, head of the Oklahoma County Public Defenders Office stated, “He was probably the finest trial lawyer I knew.”
Both of Albert’s sons, Johnnie and Victor followed in his footsteps by becoming lawyers.
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 Robert A. Manchester Lifetime Achievement Award honors a career “dedicated to preserving the rights and defending the liberty of the accused.” 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.
Passionate about hot air ballooning, as depicted on the award, Manchester became known as the “Ballooning Barrister.”
Previous recipients of the Manchester award include attorneys Charlie F. Cox, Chris Eulberg, David Autry, Frank Courbois and Scott Adams.
Last year’s event was attended by 150 people who enjoyed an open bar and a buffet provided by Bedlam Bar-B-Q.
In 2000, a group of criminal defense attorneys “seeking justice for all” founded OCCDLA.
“The original intent of OCCDLA was to form an organization that could protect or help other criminal defense lawyers who were being bullied by District Court Judges – basically a sounding board for advice,” Billy said. “Those Judges, thankfully have gone and right now I believe Oklahoma County has a solid group of criminal docket jurists.
“Our annual OCCDLA Christmas Party is our main ceremony of the year. We open the party up to all Courthouse staff, Judges and Prosecutors too,” Billy added. “There is always a great mix of people. We are all in this business together and we all love and respect the responsibility that comes with our profession.
“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.”
The OCCDLA Luncheon is held at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month in the Ron Norick Library 4th Floor auditorium. Attendance is free for members and $10 for non-members.
Other events presented by OCCDLA include the September 2016 Oklahoma Sheriff’s Debate and the Oklahoma County Judicial Candidates Forum in September 2014.
“We are a solid group that loves representing people at their darkest hour and this group gives us all someone to call,” Billy said.
For more information contact Billy Coyle at 405-232-1988.