Award selection surprises judge

‘‘Congratulations Judge Kellough, you have been selected to receive the 2009 Earl Sneed Award from the Oklahoma Bar Association.’’
That telephone call and message from a member of the OBA selection committee caught Tulsa County District Judge William C. Kellough totally off guard.
Kellough will receive the award during the annual OBA meeting Nov. 5 in Oklahoma City.
‘‘I am honored to have been chosen,’’ he said.
The citation states: ‘‘Judge William C. Kellough has a passion for history — a passion that is highlighted by his passion for law and the dedicated men and women throughout history who have shaped the profession.
‘‘To pass on his knowledge to others, Judge Kellough has shared his experience and intelligence through writing and speaking. He has written several articles for the Tulsa County Bar Association’s Tulsa Lawyer and book reviews for the Tulsa World, and he was a principle writer for the book, Building Tulsa: Lawyers at Work. Additionally, in 1992, after nearly a year of research, Judge Kellough’s article on the History of the Federal Courts in Oklahoma was published by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has also presented many CLE presentations to lawyers around the state.
‘‘His desire to inspire other lawyers to learn and excel is evident in his association with the Hudson-Hall-Wheaton Inn of Court, where he currently serves as president and was recently elected presiding judge-elect by his peers. Through his many years of involvement with the Tulsa County Library as commissioner, trustee and chair of various committees, Judge Kellough has regularly contributed as a speaker or moderator on numerous topics, both legal and non-legal.’’
Kellough is particularly proud of his involvement and the opportunity to serve as co-author of ‘‘The History of The Tulsa County Bar.’’ Other writers included the late Jim Sneed, Martha Rupp Carter and Barbara Eden.
Those writing efforts as well as the Continuing Legal Education projects all contributed to the nomination and award, he said.
Kellough does the extra work simply because ‘‘I love the law. It not only is my profession, it is my passion. I enjoy teaching and speaking at events about it.’’
Combine those entities and the fact that he is a third generation lawyer, it could be said that Kellough was born to be a lawyer.
His grandfather Robert W. Kellough practiced law from 1904 to 1973. His father, Booth Kellough, first was in private practice, then became corporate counsel to Gulf Oil Co. Soon there will fourth generation Kellough in the legal profession.
Judge Kellough’s daughter Anne is a law student at the University of Texas — Austin, her father’s alma mater.
Kellough himself started practicing law in 1975 and spent 31 years in private practice. He was elected as a district judge in 2007.
The judicial role and criminal law was a sharp contrast to the civil work he had done in private practice. He had a sharp learning curve, but admits he is a ‘‘quick learner.’’
Transitioning from the role as a judge to a teacher was easy when Kellough presented a Brown Bag seminar on character evidence.
Researching topics provides an opportunity for him to sharpen personal skills and learn a subject more thoroughly.
Even as he focuses on criminal law as a judge, he goes back to the early days in his career and draws from the understanding of the law and his experiences as an attorney.
Listening skills developed early in practice have been a key to being a judge, Kellough said. Being able to think through both sides of the argument and reflect on the law is important in this role.
Kellough describes himself as an ‘‘original bookworm’’ that today would be known as a ‘‘nerd.’’
That scholarly bent and exposure to excellent lawyers that provide support to a person as a judge, he said. ‘‘I am able to identify with the practicing attorney, understanding their pressures as the represent their client.’’
Kellough’s acquaintance with attorneys who practiced criminal law was more limited than those involved in the civil arena where he worked before being elected to the bench.
At the same time he recognizes these individuals, the work they do and dedication to clients is a vital part of the legal system.
Because of that limited association, he doesn’t have to recuse himself from the bench when their cases are brought before him.
Kellough hopes to have a long judicial career and plans to continue presenting various legal seminars for many years.
‘‘Maybe,’’ he said, ‘‘after retirement, I might look at a teaching role, but those aren’t in any immediate plans.’’

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