Strong friendship spans nearly three decades

Letha Butcher changed jobs in Tulsa County District Court without leaving her office.
Butcher, a minute clerk for 28 years became eligible to retire from that position and become a bailiff.
She made the switch Dec. 1 but continues to work for Judge William Kellough.
It is a different role and there is a learning curve, but Butcher enjoys the change and challenge.
“I have been so incredibly blessed to have this job, and it is a joy to come to work each day,” she said.
Butcher was working for the Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News as a computer typesetter and was assigned to the courthouse to fill in for another employee.
She worked for Dexter Moss before the publication was sold to Bill Retherford.
“I was one of the first computer typesetters at the newspaper,” she said.
Court Clerk Don Austin observed her work and offered her a job as a minute clerk.
Assigned to the criminal court, Butcher admits she had no idea what she was getting into.
Everything was new — the procedures, terminology and routines. She fell in love with the work.
She worked with a special judge — now an Oklahoma Supreme Court justice — John F. Reif, on the arraignment court docket.
“I was wide-eyed as people were arraigned in court,” she said. “I had no idea these criminal acts occurred. Judge Reif was very patient and a wonderful teacher.”
That learning process continued in preliminary court with Judge Jay Dalton.
She found she could be both compassionate and able to laugh through court procedures.
Attorneys appearing in court were good people, and it was fun watching them work, Butcher said. As minute clerk, it was possible to watch them prosecute and defend people charged with a variety of crimes that ranged up to murder.
The scene changed when Butcher became a department head at the Tulsa County Juvenile Court, a job she held for 10 years.
“The work at juvenile court was overwhelming,” Butcher said. “It took such an emotional toll on me seeing the children being hurt in abuse cases that I finally broke down and requested the change.”
Back downtown, Butcher found herself designated as the “floating clerk,” traveling to various courtrooms.
That changed when Judge Jesse Harris needed a full-time clerk.
Minute clerks work for Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith, and assignments can be changed.
Experienced in court procedures, Butcher worked for a series of new judges, including Michael Gassett, Deirdre Dexter, Caroline Wall, Gordon McAllister and Kellough.
Experienced minute clerks helped new judges become familiar with courtroom procedures.
Working in the court is emotional, but Butcher said her happiest moments are when she is able to help families who don’t understand the courts successfully move through the system. That help is extended to both defendants and victims.
People came to the court scared and didn’t have a clue about what was going on, she said. One woman was so grateful for the help that she made and sent cookies to the office.
As a bailiff, Butcher is looking forward to new challenges.
“I will be more involved with the judge and jury,” she said.
That means opening court, pulling files, handling correspondence and other work required to keep the court running smoothly.
“I never thought about being a bailiff,” Butcher admitted. “But when Kenneth Smith left, the opportunity presented itself, and it seemed like a good idea.”

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