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Judge In Open Records Case Recuses After Request From Fallin's Office

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A judge presiding over a lawsuit seeking records related to a botched execution has recused from the case after a request from Gov. Mary Fallin’s office.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish recused following a hearing Wednesday in the open records lawsuit brought by Ziva Branstetter, now editor-in-chief of The Frontier, and the Tulsa World.

The state requested that Parrish recuse due to her role in nominating two attorneys for an award more than 16 months ago. The request came shortly before a scheduled hearing in the case over allegations the state had failed to comply with discovery requests.

Branstetter, while enterprise editor at the World, requested emails and other records from the Department of Public Safety and Fallin’s office related to the April 29, 2014, botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The suit was filed in December 2014, with legal representation provided by Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and attorney Robert Nelon of the Hall Estill law firm in Oklahoma City.

Though Parrish has presided over the case since it was filed almost a year ago, attorneys for Fallin did not request her removal until last week. They cited Parrish’s nomination of two Hall Estill attorneys for an award given by the Oklahoma County Bar Association in asking for her recusal.

The attorneys — Seth Day and Susanna Gattoni — received the Courageous Lawyer Award from the bar association in July 2014 for their representation of Lockett and death row inmate Charles Warner in challenging the state’s execution drug secrecy law.

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