Oklahoma Supreme Court justice sues fellow justices

Tuesday, January 4th 2005, 6:10 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian P. Opala is taking his feud with his fellow justices to federal court.

Opala, in a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, says he was discriminated against when his fellow justices changed a rule and barred him from becoming chief justice.

He names chief justice Joseph M. Watt and seven other justices as defendants in the civil case.

The rule change in November allowed Watt to succeed himself as chief justice. If the change had not been made, Opala was in line to become chief justice under a rotation process

The lawsuit, filed by Norman attorney Stan Ward, says Opala is 83 but is in good health and sound mind.

It says Opala's age was "a significant factor in the discriminatory treatment" alleged in the suit.

"Defendants participated in, condoned and ratified the denial of equal protection toward plaintiff," the lawsuit argues.

"As result of the rule change, plaintiff has been deprived of the opportunity to earn additional income and to achieve the prestige of the position of chief justice," it continued.

The lawsuit asks the federal court to issue an order voiding the rule change.

Watt said he was served a summons Monday morning in the case.

"Because it would be inappropriate to discuss any issues with regard to this pending litigation, I will have no further comment until the appropriate time," he said.

Ward declined comment and Opala was unavailable late Monday.

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