Federal judge to step down next year

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A federal judge will resign from the bench next year, saying, "there are other things I want to do with my life."

U.S. District Judge Michael Burrage said Wednesday his resignation will be effective March 1. Burrage is chief judge in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, located in Muskogee, and a district judge in the Northern District, located in Tulsa.

Burrage, 50, said he has been thinking for at least a year about stepping down from what would have been a lifetime job. He said he plans to return to the private practice of law with an emphasis on private mediation.

Specifically, he plans to serve "of counsel" at a firm in Claremore where his son, Sean, practices, and will have an office in Durant and represent First United Bank. Burrage also will manage three marinas on Lake Texoma, near his home.

Burrage said he figures to make more money in the future than he did on his $140,000 annual salary as a federal judge.

Among his more notable decisions were a crucial ruling in 1995 against General Motors Corp. in a case that dealt with pickup truck gas tanks that allegedly were prone to explode and his dismissal of a libel lawsuit against ABC News filed by Dallas evangelist Robert Tilton.

Burrage also presided over a jury trial that garnered national publicity in 1997 when former Tulsa federal informant Carol Howe was acquitted of charges of conspiracy, willfully making a bomb threat and possessing a nonregistered destructive device.

U.S. District Judge Sven Erik Holmes of Tulsa said Burrage's resignation will be "a great loss to the bench."

It is "too early to tell" how Burrage's resignation will impact the court's docket, Holmes said.

The federal court in Tulsa has been short-handed since Thomas R.

Brett took senior status in October 1996. Tulsa County District Judge Deborah Shallcross withdrew her name from consideration for a federal post, and the nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank McCarthy to district judge has stalled.

Burrage said he has about 350 cases on his docket when his Northern and Eastern District caseloads are combined.