Two lawyers are vying for the position of Associate Judge for Delaware County District Court during the upcoming general election.

Kathy Lungren Baker and David Crutchfield will appear on the ballot, each hoping to be the judge who will assume the role now filled by Judge Barry Denney. 

Denney filed, uncontested, for the role of presiding judge for the county. He will replace Judge Robert Haney, who is retiring at the end of this term in office.

The election will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6. Voters have until 5 p.m., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, to request an absentee ballot.

Early voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Delaware County Election Board, 225 South Fifth Street, in Jay.

Meet the Candidates

•Kathy Lungren Baker

As a lawyer within Delaware County, Kathy Lungren Baker believes the role of associate district judge can have a profound effect on the community.

"This is one person making life-changing decisions about families and children, about freedom and restoration, about imprisonment or rehabilitation," Baker said. "I have prepared myself through education, training and experience to compassionately and competently address the issues brought before this Court."

For the past 35 years, Baker has worked within Delaware County, on "every side of the issues."

"Delaware County is my home, not just somewhere I happen to live," Baker said. "Children and families are my passion, and I truly want the opportunity to serve our community in a way no one else can."

Baker describes herself as someone who who has "tried to take the high road" throughout her campaign, by sharing her strengths, experience, passion and ideas with voters.

"I have tried to share my passion for families and children, and my specific ideas to improve the local judicial system," Baker said. "I believe I have complied with the Rules of Judicial Ethics, maintained a non--partisan campaign, and attempted to present the information I believe relevant and necessary to allow voters to make an informed decision."

As an attorney, Baker said she has strived to serve her clients with compassion and represent them to the best of her ability, "regardless of their history or station in life."

"I believe I am respected in the judicial/legal community as an attorney who will fight for her clients and for their justice," she said.

If elected, Baker said, she would want voters to know she has a desire to serve the families of Delaware County to the best of her ability.

"I truly care about people, my home and I believe in justice and securing it for everyone," Baker said. "Before I decided to file, I gave years of serious and thoughtful consideration about this position, its responsibilities and my abilities.

"I have worked hard to acquire knowledge and develop skills in the of law that are presented to this court."

Baker said she has strived to acquire training in areas she believed were essential for the role of associate district judge.

"I sought counsel from people I have worked with and trusted, who I believe shared my concerns and passion for justice and fairness, and I prayed that my decision to run was right for the people of this county," Baker said. "This decision was not made on a whim or at the very last moment, or for any reason other than my desire to serve the families of Delaware County to the best of my ability."

Baker’s background

A graduate of Hays (Kansas) High School, Baker earned her bachelor's degree in political science from Kansas State University in 1976.

She graduated from Washburn University School of Law, in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979.

She spent one semester with World Campus Afloat and said she was fortunate to spend a semester at sea to study in 15 third world nations in Africa and Asia.

"I studied world politics, economics and international law, and gained experiences that shaped my vision of the world and my responsibilities as a citizen of the United States of America to our citizens and to the world," she said.

A native of Kansas, Baker said Hays was her "hometown" growing up. She married Lowell Baker in 1982, and the couple moved to Grove in 1983 to be near her parents, Herb and Darline Lungren, after they purchased the local Chevrolet dealership in 1981.

Lowell Baker opened Baker Auto Body, and Baker opened her law practice following the move to Grove.

The couple were married for almost 33 years, before his death in 2015. Baker has two sons: Casey and Travis, who were both born and raised in Delaware County.

Casey and his family, which includes three grandchildren, live in Bentonville, Arkansas. Travis lives in Grove with his daughter. Travis served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army and served for several years a a deputy and investigator within the Delaware County Sheriff's office.

Baker lives in Grove with her mother. Her siblings also reside in Grove and include Jeff and his wife, Nancy, Terri and her husband, Dr. Michael David, and Steve and his wife Christi.

Law career

Baker was first admitted to the state and federal courts in Kansas in 1979, before joining the Oklahoma Bar in 1983.

Baker began her career with Garvey Industries in Wichita, Kansas as assistant to Willard Garvey, CEO of the closely-held corporation.

In that role, Baker said, she reported directly to the CEO and gained experience in real estate management and development, oil and gas industry, commodities market, local and state government relations, management systems and charitable foundations.

She then became the student's attorney at Kansas State University, where she managed Legal Services for Students, and served on numerous University boards representing students' interests.

"I appeared before the Kansas Board of Regents on several occasions and lobbied in the Kansas Legislature on behalf of students' financial and social issues," she said.

In 1983, Baker opened a private practice in Grove, for criminal and civil work.

In 1999, she worked as an assistant district attorney within the Delaware County District Attorney's office, where she remained until 2002.

"At the end of our term, I chose to return to private practice in Grove," Baker said.

Two years ago, she moved her office to Jay, she said, to better serve her criminal and children's court clients.

"Since returning to private practice, I have enjoyed a general practice, with my primary focus on family and criminal law," Baker said. "I have been a contractor with Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (public defender) for nearly 10 years, and contract with the district court for deprived child cases, Adult Protective Services matters and guardianships of children and adults.",

Baker said she has tried dozens of jury trials in matters from boundary line disputes to breach of contract and termination of parental rights.

As an assistant district attorney, Baker said she handled cases at "every level and of every type."

"[I] successfully prosecuted jury trials for rape, kidnapping, child abuse and murder," Baker said. " I defended appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals and successfully argued to the Supreme Court defending a ruling by the District Judge.

"I handled the Deprived Child and Juvenile Delinquent dockets for several years and successfully tried dozens of termination of parental rights jury trials."

Ultimately, Baker said, she has tried to use compassion, as well as being prepared, as an asset for her clients.

"I have the ability to discern the relevant issues and evidence, 'cut to the chase' and present my clients' positions in a competent, persuasive and civil manner," Baker said. "I believe I have strong courtroom skills, am accomplished at research and writing, and am a strong advocate for my client regardless of their offenses, their finances or station in life. I honor the practice of law, I believe in fairness, equal justice and civility, and intend to preserve or restore those tenets and behaviors when necessary."

Baker said she has never been terminated from a position, nor sanctioned by the bar association or an ethics committee during her tenure as a lawyer.

If elected

Baker said she believes her 35 years of experience, as well as her education, training and interest have prepared her for the associate district judge position.

"I have acquired and developed skills necessary to investigate and analyze evidence, to discern truth from fiction, to speak with and understand children in distress and suffering from trauma, and to conduct jury trials and bench trials," Baker said. "I believe I have earned the respect of the legal community, of courthouse personnel, of law enforcement and the people who have trusted me to protect their lives and their families."

Her experience, she said, includes more than 500 hours of training in areas of divorce/custody, domestic violence, child abuse, deprived/neglected children, guardian ad litems, probate, real estate, criminal law and procedure, Indian Child Welfare Act, court improvement, elder law, appellate practice and legal ethics.

She has tried dozens of jury trials and hundreds of bench trials, both criminal and civil.

"I have the experience to conduct jury trials and effectively manage the courtroom," Baker said. "I have obtained murder convictions and have recovered record amounts in punitive damages in civil cases."

Baker said serving as a municipal judge in five communities has given her the opportunity to serve those communities and manage their court systems.

Her experience also includes being trained, and appointed by the court, to serve as guardian ad litem for children involved in custody disputes.

"[This] has given me the experience to evaluate, investigate and analyze evidence to formulate and present recommendations to the court as to the best interests of those children," Baker said. "I have been appointed as an attorney for children to ensure their rights are protected in legal proceedings when they were in custody disputes or have been victims of sexual/physical abuse."

During her service as an advocate for elderly clients, Baker was honored by the Adult Protective Services for outstanding advocacy.

For more than 30 years, she has been involved in deprived/neglected and juvenile delinquency cases.

"This court requires specialized training that I have obtained every year," Baker said. "I have prosecuted parents who have neglected and harmed their children, and I have helped reunify families when appropriate.

"These children are a large portion of the court's responsibility and dozens of children are involved every month. I believe I have the respect and support of most child welfare and juvenile affairs officers who have worked with me for those many years."

Outside of the courtroom

Baker has served on the board of directors of the Delaware County Children's Special Advocacy Network and helped create the family advocacy center to investigate and prosecute child sexual/physical abuse in Delaware and Ottawa Counties.

While in the district attorney's office, she served as a leader of the Multi-Disciplinary Team that included social workers and law enforcement that investigated and prosecuted child sexual/physical abuse cases. She also acquired training in child abuse and trauma.

During that time, she worked with medical and health care providers and helped coordinate the efforts of all those involved in services to the child victims.

She has also served on the board of directors for the Community Crisis Center for nearly 20 years, to assist victims of domestic violence and provide training for advocates and law enforcement.

Baker helped create the CASA [Court Appointed Special Advocate) program within Delaware County, which serves as an advocate for children within Children's Court.

Outside of the courtroom, Baker has served on the Post Adjudication Review Board, which reviews deprived child cases to ensure services are provided timely and to make recommendations to the Court so children do not get lost in the child welfare system.

Baker said she joined the Jay Chamber of Commerce when she moved her practice to Jay, in order to "help improve the quality of life for families in Jay and the surrounding area."

"Because of my involvement I have learned of many exciting programs and services available through state and federal development programs, the Cherokee Nation, and have found another opportunity to share some of the burdens in our community," Baker said. "I had previously been in the Grove Chamber when my office was in Grove for the same reasons."

A member of First United Methodist Church, Grove, and Church of the Shepherd (COS) in Grove, Baker is involved in several ministries within the county including the Lighthouse Pregnancy Center in Jay and the Abundant Blessings Center in Grove. Both organizations, she said, provide parent education and support, for families within the county.

She is also involved with the Care Portal which provides for emergency needs of families involved with DHS, and the Backpack Program which provides food for hungry children.

Looking ahead

Baker said the if elected she would work with Denney as he strives to create specialized dockets to meet the needs of Delaware County residents.

"As public defender I am keenly aware of the special needs of many criminal defendants who suffer from mental health issues that have resulted in their contact with law enforcement and the legal system," Baker said. "Their behaviors may be criminal, but their intentions are not.

"Our jail population is often nearly double its lawful capacity, and many of these people could be released with adequate monitoring and support. Too many are housed in the jail for too long awaiting disposition and sent to prison for noncompliance with probation rules."

Baker said this is often a result of the inadequacy of the county's mental health system, and the absence of support systems for the defendants.

"I have proposed for many years the creation of a Mental Health Court and a Veterans' Court to divert appropriate individuals into dockets that will monitor their mental health needs," Baker said. "A domestic violence docket could monitor and ensure compliance with court-ordered treatment at an earlier stage.

"These dockets/courts provide for closely monitoring compliance with court-ordered services and discern problems with compliance on a more timely basis, before their failures become significant and absconding a real outcome."

Baker said funding for programs are always an issue, but believes monitoring dockets could be implemented immediately without additional funds.

Baker said if elected, she would strive to require more mediation in cases on the domestic docket, in hopes that it would help resolve matters outside of the courtroom.

She would work to create more specific and smaller call dockets, to help streamline the court cases heard before the associate judge.

Public perception

Baker said there are many perceptions within the public about the county's court system.

"Many do not understand how the Courts work, which judge is responsible for what matters, which judges are appointed or elected, how laws and procedures affect the progress of a case, and certainly are unaware of the numbers of cases and backlog that results from the sheer number of cases pending," Baker said. "Some people believe criminal sentences are too lenient, some believe they are too harsh.

"I will decide each case on a individual basis, but in light of precedent."

Baker said many in the public believe some lawyers receive preferential treatment from the court system.

"I will work hard to dispel that perception so each person believes they received a fair and impartial hearing," Baker said. "I invite citizens to come to court, watch public proceedings, see the dockets and numbers of people involved.

"Those who have personally experienced these difficulties generally understand why things move slowly once they attend proceedings."

Baker said there are many positions available, where the public could volunteer to help within the court system, ranging from becoming a CASA volunteer, to working within the PARB and YES programs.

"I will be inviting volunteers to become mentors/support for Mental Health and Veterans' Court, all in an effort to ensure success for defendants and reduce the Court's involvement whenever possible," Baker said.

Baker said many in the public may not realize they can elect a judge, because the office has not had a contested race for many years.

"Nearly everyone knows someone who has or will be affected by this judge," Baker said. "Delaware County is number one per capita in Oklahoma for divorces and for incarceration of men and women. Well over 200 divorces have been filed just this year affecting about 200 children."

Baker said she does not take the role of associate judge lightly.

"I care greatly about the people of this county," Baker said. "I have participated in service organizations here for decades because I do care.

"I am not a stranger to the needs of this county. This has been and is my home and my family's home. I was married here and my children were born and raised in Grove.

"This is not the place for on-the-job training. People's lives and livelihoods are at stake. I will be the kind of judge I would want for my family and my friends."

For more information

Persons interested may visit Baker's Facebook page by searching Kathy Baker for Judge or her website at www.KathyForJudge.com. She can be reached by email at KathyForJudge@gmail.com or by phone at 918-791-0040 or 918-791-8183.

•David Crutchfield

A six year veteran of the United States Navy, David Crutchfield wants to become the next associate district judge because he is "passionate about children going through divorce and separation."

As a lawyer for more than 40 years, Crutchfield said practicing family law in the county has taught him lessons regarding the harm children incur during divorce proceedings.

"I want to decrease the trauma those children experience when their mother and father separate," Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield describes himself as a person who strives to represent his client "zealously," and one who strives to put his clients interests "foremost in any legal endeavor."

"If you are going to take a person’s money, then you represent them with all your attention and energy," Crutchfield said. "As a lawyer, I think my peers will adamantly say I have represented my clients with zeal but also with dignity."

As a judge, Crutchfield said he would view the public as his client.

"My job [would be] to devote my full attention and energy to each and every matter that comes before me and to apply the law to the facts in a fair and impartial manner," he said. "My zeal will be directed to protecting the public’s interest in a fair and impartial judiciary."

If elected, Crutchfield said he will not be swayed by special interests or people.

"I will endeavor to treat every person with dignity and fairness," he said. "I will rely on my Christian faith to guide my decisions.
"

Public percetpion

Crutchfield's background

Crutchfield grew up in Claremore and is a graduate of Claremore High School.

A member of the Cherokee Nation, Crutchfield said he grew up loving the outdoors, doing everything from playing football and baseball, to hunting and fishing on the Verdigris River near his grandfather's Cherokee allotment near Willio.

He began traveling to Delaware County as a child, when his family would take him swimming at the Blue Hole down by Kenwood and then later to camp out at Flint Creek and the Illinois River in south Delaware County.

Crutchfield moved to Monkey Island in 1997, he said, to be on the lake and near his family in Claremore.

Crutchfield and his wife, Adrienne (Stone) Crutchfield have a son, daughter-in-law and a grandson.

After high school, Crutchfield joined the U.S. Navy in 1968. His training included attending the Electrical and Electronics “A” School in Great Lakes, Illinois; the Nuclear Power School in Bainbridge, Maryland; the Nuclear Power Prototype Training at Windsor Locks, Connecticut; and the Submarine School at New London, Connecticut.

He received his bachelor's degree from Texas Christian University, with honors, in 1976, and was elected to Phi Betta Kappa—Delta Chapter of Texas in 1977.

He earned his law degree from the University of Tulsa School of Law in 1979.

Law career

Crutchfield began his career in 1978 as a legal intern with Best, Sharp, Thomas and Glass in Tulsa.

From 1979 to 1983, he served as a lawyer in Tulsa. His practice was litigation oriented, doing insurance/commercial/business/banking law.

From 1983 to 1987, he worked as an outside counsel for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) in Oklahoma City during the Penn Square Bank closing. He also worked as outside counsel for local banks and counsel to Oklahoma Title and Closing Company, rendered title opinions on more than 600 properties in the Oklahoma City area.

From 1987 to 1990 he served as the general counsel to the Professional Investors' Insurance Group in Tulsa.

He said the company was a publicly traded insurance holding company with five health/life/accident companies, two auto/fire/casualty companies and two crop insurance companies.

In that role, he directed litigation efforts of three in-house attorney's and numerous outside attorneys, as well as counseled the chairman, the executive staff and the board of directors in insurance, regulatory and corporate matters.

From 1990 to 1997, he served as president and general counsel for Compressed Natural Gas Corporation.

The company provided natural gas vehicle conversions to the Air Force, Army, U.S. Postal Service and numerous state and local governmental agencies.

Since 1997, he has worked in private practice within Delaware, Craig and Ottawa Counties.

His experience also includes serving ias the city attorney for Colcord and as the attorney since 2000 for the Grand Lake Public Works Authority.

He also has more than 60 hours of training as a state Certified Mediator for family and employment disputes.

His current practice consists of family and domestic law cases, including divorce, child custody and child support. He also deals with real estate issues, wills and probate, guardianships, as well as criminal and civil litigation.

"I enjoy family law more than the other disciplines of law, primarily because you have an opportunity to help people who are in need and are suffering," Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield said he has never been terminated from a position, nor sanctioned by the bar association or an ethics committee during his tenure as a lawyer.

If Elected

If elected, Crutchfield said he will bring years of training and experience to the bench.

"I know the nature and temperament of the people of northeast Oklahoma," he said. "I understand and share their religious and cultural experiences.

"The average person in Delaware County is hardworking and honest and they expect their judge to be the same.

"They want a level headed judge with outstanding academic achievement but also common sense."

Crutchfield said his experience as a lawyer, along with his training will help him in the role of associate district judge.

"I have 40 years of successful lawyering in the various disciplines over which the judge presides," Crutchfield said. "I have practiced in many courtrooms and have seen a lot of good lawyers and bad lawyers as well as a lot of good judges and bad judges.

"Just from experience, I know how to conduct myself and my courtroom to set an example for Delaware County."

Outside of the courtroom

As a young lawyer, Crutchfield said he was cautioned by a mentor from joining clubs or organizations "for fear of finding yourself forever recused from taking on a client because of conflicts of interest."

"Early on in my career, I was in a local civic organization in another town," Crutchfield said. "It wasn’t long before a client wanted me to sue an individual over a contract dispute.

"To my client’s great disappointment, I was forced to pull out of that case because the defendant was in my civic club."

Practicing law in rural counties, Crutchfield said, made it difficult to belong to clubs and organizations without running into conflicts of interest.

Because of this, he has limited himself to three areas: the boy scouts, his church and the American Legion.

"I was Scoutmaster when my son was a teenager," Crutchfield said. "My wife and mother and I went to the Disciples of Christ church in Claremore until mom moved to our house on Monkey Island in April of this year.

"Since then we have visited many local churches, looking for one that mom feels comfortable in."

Crutchfield said as an American Legion member, he believes "old veterans should be setting an example for the younger veterans returning from Afghanistan and other arduous duties."

Looking ahead

Crutchfield believes the associate district judge provides residents with an opportunity to "resolve their differences and enforce the law without resorting to self-help and vigilantism."

If elected, he said, he will work alongside Denney to develop a series of specialized dockets within the county court system.

"Many of these special programs are designed to help people with drug/alcohol and or mental health issues," Crutchfield said. "For these programs to be successful, the people in them must receive treatment and counseling to help their drug and alcohol additions and or mental health disorders.

"These services require money and the state legislature has been slow in providing needed funds. I would work to bring awareness to our local elected officials (state senators and congressmen) through direct contact and coalitions with other state agencies."

Crutchfield said as associate judge, he would work with Denney to coordinate jury dockets and preside over criminal and civil cases as assigned.

"The most important thing the associate district judge can do to help the district judge is take care of the dockets and matters assigned to him or her so he or she is available to help the district judge with the overflow of cases," Crutchfield said.

Public perception

He said he has heard many comments about the judiciary within the county during his time campaigning.

"I wouldn’t want to speculate as to whether the public perception is good or bad," he said, adding he would work to further the public's perception of the judiciary by always "being honest and as transparent as the law allows."

"There are some things in the law that must be held confidential—guardianships for example—but by and large, most things are public business and should be conducted in open court," Crutchfield said. "Private discussions and in chambers conferences leaves the parties suspicious as to what transpired behind closed doors. I would try to avoid these things."

If elected, Crutchfield said he would be in favor of appearing at public forums, sponsored by local civic groups, to hear the public's opinion concerning court procedures and policies.

"To a limited extent, I might express my opinion on procedural and policy matters but would not address specific cases or speculate about cases or issues that might come before the court," he said. "The public’s trust will be built/kept through open and honest application of the law. No one can expect to win every time they go to court, but everyone should expect the process to be fair and equitable and follow the law.

For more information

For more information, persons interested may visit Crutchfield's personal or campaign Facebook pages, or visit crutchfield4judge.com. He can be reached at 918-645-9274 or dcrutchfield@crutchfieldlaw.net.

Editor's Note: In the original story, it indicated Crutchfield had been a lawyer for more than 20 years. The number is actually 40 years. He's been in Delaware County for at least 20 years. KMHM