‘Hit the road, Jack!’

Judge McCurdy honored upon retirement after 39 years in legal profession

998
Judge Jack McCurdy describes his court reporter Kristi Wright (left) and bailiff Rindie Hunt as “the best.” (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Family, friends, attorneys, fellow judges and district court personnel converged on courtroom one at the Canadian County to bid farewell to Jack McCurdy II.

The Yukon native has retired after 39 years in the legal profession, the last four as a Canadian County district judge.

During a Nov. 28th retirement reception, Judge McCurdy fought back tears while thanking everyone who supported him over the decades.

“It’s quite humbling to see this crowd and hear all the nice things that have been said,” he noted.

Jack McCurdy spent the past 15 years as a member of the Canadian County judiciary after 24 years as an attorney. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

“I’m going to really miss this place. I’m going to miss the people and I’m going to miss the lawyers. … It’s really a pleasure having them practice before us.”

McCurdy’s last day on the bench was Nov. 30.

“The reason I’m here – and the reason I am who I am – starts with my family,” McCurdy told the audience.

He introduced his wife Donna, mother Dee, daughters Monica, Kaci and Kiffany, along with grandchildren and other family members.

In retirement, Judge McCurdy will relish life even more as he stays active with his hunting, gardening, fishing, and family festivities.

McCurdy spent 24 years as an attorney and 11 years as a special judge before being elected in 2018 as office #2 district judge for the 26th Judicial District.

He decided not to seek another four-year term, which starts Jan. 1, 2023. He will be succeeded by Judge Khristan Strubhar, who was elected without opposition.

Other members of the Canadian County judiciary are District Judge Paul Hesse, Associate District Judge Bob Hughey, Special Judge Barbara Hatfield, and Special Judge Charles Gass. They will be joined in January by newly appointed special judge David Halley, an El Reno attorney.

All members of the Canadian County bench are “so outstanding in their field,” Judge McCurdy said.

“This is the best group of judges in the State of Oklahoma – hands down,” he added. “It’s proven every day.

“Everybody’s friends. Everybody gets along. Everybody helps everybody. Everybody consults everybody.”

McCurdy credited Canadian County’s bailiffs and court reporters, offering special kudos to his bailiff Rindie Hunt and court reporter Kristi Wright.

“They’re all great – but those two are the best,” McCurdy said. “I often call them my ‘work daughters’.”

Canadian County’s retiring judge also cited the professionalism of the District Attorney’s Office, cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office and support of the County Commissioners.

Sitting judges in Canadian and Oklahoma counties and the state Court of Criminal Appeals were joined by several retired judges to don black robes for McCurdy’s Nov. 28th retirement reception.

“This is really great to have such a big turnout for this occasion to thank and honor Judge McCurdy for his years of service,” said Judge Hesse, who presided over a 45-minute ceremony.

“This is a really special occasion.”

Yukon native Jack McCurdy celebrates his retirement with family members: Grandson Colby Schafer, granddaughter Sadie Schafer, daughter Monica Schafer, daughter Kaci McCurdy, mother Dee McCurdy, granddaughter Zola Pestinger, Judge McCurdy, wife Donna McCurdy, grandson Jack Pestinger, daughter Kiffany Pestinger, and son-in-law Steven Pestinger. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Canadian County District Judge Jack McCurdy joins other judges during his Nov. 28th retirement reception: Front from left, former Canadian County Associate District Judge/retired Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Reta Strubhar, Canadian County Special Judge Khristan Strubhar, Canadian County Special Judge Barbara Hatfield, Oklahoma County District Court Natalie Mai, Oklahoma County District Judge Sheila Stinson, and retired Canadian County District Judge Edward C. Cunningham; back from left, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Prince, Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews, Judge McCurdy, Canadian County District Paul Hesse, Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Ogden, Canadian County Special Judge Charles Gass, former Canadian County Special Judge/retired Kingfisher County Associate District Judge Bob Davis, and Canadian County Associate District Judge Bob Hughey. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Advertisement

FOND MEMORIES OF ‘JUDGE JACK’

Offering special remarks were McCurdy’s longtime friend attorney Chris Box, retired Canadian County Special Judge Gary McCurdy and retired bailiff Cherri Brandley.

They shared fond memories and comical stories about “Judge Jack.”

McCurdy and Box attended law school together and have known each other for 40 years.

“The best way to sum up Jack is, he’s a ‘lawyer’s judge’,” Box shared. “He started out in private practice, represented the oppressed and the indigent, and did civil litigation. He knows the value of time.

Judge McCurdy receives congrats from El Reno attorney David Halley, who will become a new Canadian County special judge in January. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

“He lets the attorneys try their case (and) gives you a level playing field. He can show mercy when mercy is due, but he can also dish out punishment when punishment is due.”

Canadian County is one of the best counties to practice law because of the judges who serve here, Box added.

“They leave their egos outside, and they do what’s right,” he noted.

Retired Judge Gary McCurdy called Jack McCurdy “one of the best.”

Gary McCurdy shared stories about the confusion that sometimes arose while both he and Jack McCurdy worked at the Canadian County Courthouse.

“Over years, it hasn’t been easy to put up with the fact that many members of the communities here in Canadian County are stuck with his rulings – and they blame me,” Gary McCurdy said jokingly.

Gary McCurdy shared a humorous story of when Jack McCurdy told a party in a victim’s protective order (VPO) case that Gary was his “dad” and she were supposed to be in his courtroom.

When Gary McCurdy was an assistant district attorney, he prosecuted a defendant named McCarty – who was represented by then-defense attorney Jack McCurdy. Now-retired District Judge Edward C. Cunningham was presiding over that criminal case.

“We had McCurdy, McCurdy and McCarty,” Gary McCurdy shared. “Jack and I are both convinced the only person who was truly confused was Judge Cunningham.”

Retired court bailiff Brandley remembers vividly Jack McCurdy’s sense of humor and preference for eating junk food at lunch.

She saw first-hand just how dedicated McCurdy was to his profession, pointing out how he always “took care of business.”

In closing, Brandley told McCurdy, “You worked hard for this retirement – long years – and you deserve it!”

Among others attending the retirement reception were Canadian County’s bailiffs and court reporters, members of the Canadian County Bar Association, Canadian County District Attorney’s Office, Court Clerk’s Office, and Sheriff’s Office, along with county and state officials.

Retired Judge Gary McCurdy shares tales of confusion that sometimes occurred while both he and Jack McCurdy worked at the Canadian County Courthouse. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Among Canadian County Bar Association members attending McCurdy’s retirement reception are, from left, Yukon attorney David Hanes, El Reno attorney/Yukon city attorney Roger Rinehart and Yukon attorney Roger Everett. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Judge Jack McCurdy accepts an Outstanding Service Award from officials with Oklahoma’s Alternative Dispute Resolution System, including former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (left). (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Advertisement

‘INTEGRITY BEYOND REPROACH’

Two municipal leaders presented proclamations recognizing Judge McCurdy for his many years of dedicated service and outstanding contributions.

Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar read a proclamation on behalf of the Yukon City Council.

“Throughout his career, Judge McCurdy has established a reputation of integrity beyond reproach, a record of fairness and impartiality on the bench, and a history of leadership, mentoring, organization, and preparation,” Kretchmar said.

Recently retired El Reno Mayor Matt White read the City of El Reno’s proclamation.

“Judge McCurdy is willing to listen to all parties, with his ruling truly based upon the facts only, applied to the law. In addition, he goes a further step and explains to the parties why he made the decision, in a manner the parties understand,” White said.

The retired Canadian County judge was described as “down to earth,” honest, fair, and civil.

McCurdy uses common sense and leads by example, while always “lending a hand” to other judges who need help, El Reno’s former mayor explained.

“His integrity and his love for this community and his family – his kids and grandkids – are overwhelming,” White said.

McCurdy also was presented an Outstanding Service Award from officials with Oklahoma’s Alternative Dispute Resolution System.

McCurdy started in private practice in 1983 after finishing law school, working for attorney Garland Bloodworth in Oklahoma City. Some 1-1/2 years later, McCurdy opened his own law office in Yukon.

McCurdy because a Canadian County special judge in August 2007 after being appointed by Cunningham.

In 2017, the Oklahoma Legislature created a second district judge position in Canadian County due to the county’s growing caseload. McCurdy was overwhelmingly elected in 2018 to fill the seat.

In 2020, the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section presented Judge McCurdy with the Honorable Donald L. Deason Judicial Award for his character, dedication and professional excellence.

Oklahoma City attorney Chris Box, a longtime friend of Judge McCurdy, calls him a “lawyer’s judge.” (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Retired Canadian County District Judge Edward C. Cunningham chats with former El Reno Mayor Matt White. Judge Cunningham appointed McCurdy as a special judge in 2007. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Yukon attorney Rick Henthorn signs a memory book for Judge McCurdy. Cake and refreshments were provided by the Canadian County Bar Association. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)