Pawhuska lawyer and judge M. John Kane IV said on Feb. 11 his reaction to his first few months as a justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court is that the quality of the lawyers serving around the justices is very high.
“These are quality, quality lawyers,” Kane said during remarks to a luncheon group of the Pawhuska Rotary Club. It is also been “a dream come true,” he said. Kane is the great-grandson of a chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who had been a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention. He acknowledged that is why it has always been a dream of his to serve on the same court.
His biggest takeaway, however, from his few months on the court of his dreams is how well everyone gets along; how civilized everyone is about sometimes pointed disagreements.
“Really, I think the biggest surprise I’ve had as an appellate judge is just how collegial the justices are,” Kane said. He observed that this collegiality stands in marked contrast to “way too much vilification” in the broader culture and added the reminder that, “there are good people with bad ideas.”
“The answer is that we do disagree but it’s very respectful and very collegial,” Kane said. “We do disagree, sometimes pretty sharply.”
Another point that Kane made for his audience is that the state Supreme Court is not a backstop for all state-law cases.
“We’re not there to redo every appeal that comes down,” Kane said, commenting that the Supreme Court has guidelines it follows for accepting cases.
Kane clarified for his audience that he and his family will continue to make their home in Pawhuska, given that he was specifically chosen out of a Supreme Court district including this part of the state. He also said that he thought it was helpful to him, in taking on his new challenge, that he had to personally draft his own first opinion for the court.
“You want to have your own voice as a judge,” he said, explaining that his first opinion will offer staff attorneys a chance to see his approach.