Then it was John F. Reif, special judge

Letha Butcher hurried across the jury room to greet a special visitor waiting outside the glass doors.
Her former boss had a broad smile on his face as he saw her approaching.
It had been quite awhile since Butcher had seen Supreme Court Justice John F. Reif, and both were excited about the brief reunion.
They recalled working together when Reif was a Tulsa District Court special judge. They reminisced about moments almost 30 years ago when Butcher was a minute clerk — and how her boss was a patient teacher.
They laughed at the “super judge” status given to Reif by the court staff, a T-shirt for the arraignment docket work he was doing Saturday mornings.
Reif said he recently had the T-shirt cleaned and framed in memory of those days.
“I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many wonderful people,” he said.
Earlier, he had talked about working with Butcher — now a bailiff for Tulsa County District Judge William Kellough — and many more who have touched his life.
“The problem is that when reflecting on the past it is possible to leave someone out who has touched your life,” Reif said. Life is constantly building and unfolding.
Reif noticed Tulsa County Public Defender Pete Silva enter the courtroom.
“Pete Silva, one of the great lawyers and finest people I have ever met,” he said. “He has the thankless job of defending people who are the most despised by others in the legal system charged with the most heinous crimes. Yet, he does that job and thereby ensures that each person gets their day in court. That is a great thing to do.”
Reif appreciates his opportunity to serve on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Weekly judicial conferences find the justices meeting behind closed doors.
“We are a collegial group, and I can honestly say that every case that is presented receives careful consideration,” he said. “Even when there is no consensus, it is given thoughtful review. Every judge does their share of heavy lifting.”
Reif said that justices challenge and reinforce each other, and they bring out the best in me,” he said.
One of the chief benefits of being a judge has been the availability of law clerks, minute clerks and bailiffs providing background support.
That staff experience began in Tulsa County with Court Administrators Claude Smith, Dave Hill, Ann Domin and Vicki Cox.
They helped ensure the courts would operate smoothly.
“I won’t say it is easy to be a good judge by oneself,” Reif said.
Reif will complete 26 months of service on the Supreme Court at the end of December.
He has had to make adjustments as he regularly travels from his Skiatook home to Oklahoma City.
Life is full of both job and personal challenges, Reif said.
“One of the big challenges was losing my wife, Aylo, to cancer a few months after I was named to the court,” he said. “She always was supportive of me, even during her last illness. I was with her during her treatments, but she insisted that I return to work when she was in recovery.”
Reif said he feels like he leads a gypsy lifestyle because he makes so many trips across the Turner Turnpike.
But, he added, the judges at the Court of Civil Appeals in Tulsa have been kind enough to allow him a private office and access to a law library to do legal research.
That arrangement allows him to both work and care for his 87-year-old father.

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