By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCCDLA) will hold its 8th annual Christmas Party on Thursday, December 6 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 the Coyle Law Firm, 125 Park Avenue, hosted by OCCDLA past president, John Coyle, and his son Billy Coyle, the group’s current president.
Three awards will be given to OCCDLA members for their outstanding service: the President’s Award, the prestigious Barry & Johnny Albert Award (formerly the 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.
This year the organization is honoring two recipients with the 2018 President’s award: Bill Graves, an Oklahoma State Representative for 24 years and District Judge for twelve years, and Michelle McElwee, who served Oklahoma County as a former public defender, assistant district attorney, and District Judge for two years. Both are outgoing judges for the Oklahoma County District Court.
The Barry & Johnny Albert Award (formerly, the Barry Albert Award) is named after Barry Albert whose legal career spanned over 40 years as both a county prosecutor and public defender, and his son Johnny Albert, a defense attorney and longtime member of OCCDLA, who passed away suddenly last March. Both of Barry’s sons, Johnny and Victor, became lawyers, following in their father’s footsteps.
The recipient of the 2018 Barry & Johnny Albert Award is Thomas F. Hurley. With 20 years of experience, Tom has served as a prosecutor and a former United States Army Judge Advocate who once led the civilian criminal defense practice section of the court-martial defense Law Office of Will M. Helixon in Oklahoma City. He now is a member of the Oklahoma County Public Defenders office.
The Robert A. Manchester Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors a career “dedicated to preserving the rights and defending the liberty of the accused,” will be given to attorney Paul S. Faulk.
Practicing criminal defense law for 31 years, Faulk says, “I prepare every case charged in state and federal court as if it will go to trial. Why do this when most cases don’t go to trial? Because prosecutors know which attorneys just want to ‘plead out’ every case quickly and which are thorough and aggressive in defending their clients…experienced trial attorneys who are ready, willing and able to go to trial.”
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.
An avid balloon hobbyist, Manchester became known as the “Ballooning Barrister,” as depicted on the award that bears his name.
The event is highly anticipated each year, last year 150 people attended and enjoyed an open bar and a buffet provided by Bedlam Bar-B-Q. According to Billy, OCCDLA was founded in 2000 by a group of criminal defense attorneys “seeking justice for all.”
“Our annual Christmas Party is our main ceremony of the year” Billy said. “We open the party up to all Courthouse staff, Judges and Prosecutors. 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.
“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.