An Oklahoma judge is now at risk of losing her position as a district judge following an investigation that revealed she exchanged over 500 texts with her bailiff during the trial of a man accused of murdering a 2-year-old child. The texts were found to be mocking the physical appearances of attorneys, jurors, and witnesses, raising concerns about the judge’s impartiality.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane IV has recommended the removal of Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom after reviewing camera footage that captured her texting and checking Facebook while presiding over the trial. The texts, which were exchanged between Soderstrom and her female bailiff, contained inappropriate remarks about the size of prosecutors’ genitals, accusations of witnesses lying, and admiration for the physical appearance of a testifying police officer.
The chief justice alleges that the totality of the text messages suggests that the judge believed the defendant was innocent and desired a particular outcome in the case. This raises concerns about impartiality and the judge’s commitment to upholding justice. The jury ultimately found the defendant guilty of second-degree manslaughter instead of first-degree murder and gave him a sentence of “Time Served,” as he had already spent over five years in jail awaiting trial.
Judge Soderstrom has agreed to a temporary suspension from her duties and has ceased hearing criminal cases since last month. Her attorney stated that she takes the allegations seriously and is awaiting the full record from the Council on Judicial Complaints to respond appropriately.
The case highlights the importance of judicial integrity and the need for judges to maintain impartiality throughout legal proceedings. The Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary will now evaluate the chief justice’s recommendation and decide whether to remove Judge Soderstrom from office.