Judges' Offspring Identify Challenges

By Katherine Taul, Freelance Writer
The 2000 Oklahoma Judicial Conference became an even more special event when the Oklahoma Judicial Conference Auxiliary (OJCA) hosted Kate Molter of the Judicial Family Institute. Kate led a panel of children of Oklahoma judicial parents. Panelists ranging from high school students to adults shared their experiences and listened as judicial spouses gave insights into some issues.

Amber and Melanie Burris expressed gratitude to their parents for helping them deal with the experiences they had growing up in a community where their father was judge. Amber noted the honesty in which her parents told her that “this is what pays the rent, pays for your car and your horses—and you will be held to a higher standard. We hope you will live up to this standard.” They also helped her to understand she had no influence in what would happen in the courtroom and that issues would not be discussed with her. That helped, she noted, in forming answers to those who approached her about cases before her father.

Melanie Burris remembers campaign time as being particularly stressful. She learned very early on that politics were not to be discussed. She was also grateful her father never spoke of cases because then she never knew if her friends’ parents had been before him.

The daughter of two judges, her mother a district judge and her father a city judge, Lacy Post transferred to a private school in another town and that has made life easier for her. She still, however, gets asked in civics class what her mother thinks about issues, which she does not discuss.

Other panelists also spoke of high-visibility, and avoiding pretension. Several of the panelists mentioned the difficulty of campaigns and the stress of always being in the public eye.

Following the panel discussion, judges and spouses offered suggestions and comments that have made a positive impact on their families. One spouse responded that it has been very helpful to take their children to judicial conferences, both state and national, where they met other peers and formed lifetime bonds.
One spouse mentioned that during the election a trusted friend would sometimes take their young son out for some fun where there would be no pressure. Another suggested allowing the children to participate in the election by maybe picking the family pose used for the media.

Judicial Family Institute moderator Kate Molter closed the discussion noting judges’ children “learn open-minded, fact filled decision-making processes” and analytical skills. “Our children have the opportunity to meet people and have experiences that other children may not have. We need to emphasize those positive areas.”