NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma College of Law honored three exceptional Oklahoma lawyers by inducting them into the Order of the Owl Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place at a dinner on Thursday, March 12, in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom in Oklahoma Memorial Union. The Order of the Owl pays tribute to College of Law graduates who demonstrate remarkable leadership and service through outstanding accomplishments in their careers.
2015 Honorees are:
• The Honorable Robin J. Cauthron, federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
• Dean Emeritus Andrew M. Coats, former University of Oklahoma College of Law Dean
• and Reggie Whitten, co-founder and Managing Partner of Whitten Burrage Law Firm and co-founder of the Whitten-Newman Foundation.
The Order of the Owl, co-hosted by The University of Oklahoma President, David Boren, and College of Law Dean, Joseph Harroz, Jr., was created in 2011 to highlight accomplished alumni and the legacy they leave for future generations of OU lawyers.
“This year’s recipients are three exceptional attorneys who are a perfect representation of OU Law. While each has chosen a completely different career path, they have one defining characteristic in common. They each have a career that serves others. We are honored to induct them into the Order of the Owl Hall of Fame,” Dean Joseph Harroz, Jr.
Robin J. Cauthron was born in Edmond, Oklahoma, and graduated from The University of Oklahoma with her bachelor's degree in 1970 and her Juris Doctor degree in 1977. She also earned a master's degree in 1974 from Oklahoma Central State University.
Cauthron was a law clerk for the Honorable Ralph Thompson in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma from 1977 to 1981, Staff Attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma, Inc. until 1982, and a private practice attorney until 1983, before being appointed to serve as Special District Court Judge for Oklahoma's 17th Judicial District from 1983 to 1986. Cauthron was the first full-time female Federal Magistrate Judge in the Tenth Circuit serving the Western District of Oklahoma from 1986 to 1991.
She served the Judicial Conference of the United States as a member, and later Chair, of the Defender Services Committee, district judge representative to the Conference, and member of the Executive Committee.
Cauthron was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to be a district judge in the Western District of Oklahoma, and became the first female, federal district judge in Oklahoma. She served as chief judge of the court from 2001-2008.
Andrew M. Coats is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The University of Oklahoma. He was an officer in the United States Navy and after serving at sea became an advisor to the Republic of China naval forces in Taiwan from 1957 to 1960.
In 1960, he returned to The University of Oklahoma to attend the College of Law. He was an Editor of the Oklahoma Law Review, President of the Student Bar Association and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He was honored by the Oklahoma Bar Association as the outstanding law student in the State of Oklahoma, and was selected as the outstanding law graduate of 1963.
He served as the District Attorney of Oklahoma County, was elected Mayor of Oklahoma City, served as President of Crowe & Dunlevy Law Firm, and was President of the Oklahoma Bar Association.
Dean Coats was the National President of the American College of Trial Lawyers during 1996-97. He was the Charter President of the American Board of Trial Advocates in Oklahoma and is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. In 1995, he was selected as a Trustee of the United States Supreme Court Historical Society.
In 1996, he became the Dean of The University of Oklahoma College of Law. In 2002, in recognition of his leadership to the University of Oklahoma College of Law, the OU Regents named the law school building Andrew M. Coats Hall.
In 2005, Dean Coats was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the highest honor Oklahoma can confer on an Oklahoman.
Reggie Whitten is co-founder and Senior Partner of Whitten Burrage. Reggie is from Seminole and was the first of his family to graduate from college. He received a Bachelor’s degree from OU in 1977 and his Juris Doctorate from OU Law in 1980. During law school, he worked at the OU law library and participated in five moot court competitions and excelled, honing his skills as a future trial lawyer.
Reggie started with the firm of Foliart, Mills and Niemeyer, first as an intern and later as a lawyer. In 1984, he became a partner in the firm of Mills and Whitten. His practice area has always been trial work, and he has been involved in complex litigation on both the defense and plaintiff side. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, composed of the best trial lawyers from the U.S. and Canada and is restricted to no more than 1% of the active lawyers in the state.
In 2008, Reggie and his partner Michael Burrage obtained one of the largest verdicts in the country, Burgess vs. Farmers Insurance Co. It is believed to be the largest verdict in state history. He has participated in over one hundred jury trials over the last 34 years.
He is a past President of the Oklahoma Association for Justice and has been the recipient of a number of honors including Journal Record Leadership in Law, Oklahoma Association of Justice Tommy D. Frasier Award, and Oklahoma Bar Association Trailblazer Award.
In 2004, Reggie co-founded the Whitten Newman Family Foundation in memory of his oldest son, Brandon, who passed away in 2002 as a result of a traffic accident caused by alcohol and drug addiction. Reggie and John Hargrave, a longtime friend, created the Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery and FATE (Fighting Addiction Through Education). Reggie has spoken to thousands of students throughout the state about the dangers of addiction and substance abuse.
The Foundation, with the Sam Noble State Museum of Natural History, co founded ExplorOlogy and Native Explorers – educational programs with interactive scientific training and field experiences which has impacted over 50,000 Oklahoma youth. His family Foundation also serves as the primary supporter for Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a CNN Hero and Time Magazine 100 Most Influential Person in the World. In 2008, he co-founded Pros for Africa, an international relief organization that promotes and supports Sister Rosemary and her girls, who were dispossessed in Uganda during the conflict with Joseph Kony and the LRA. In his spare time, he co-authored two books, one about the life of Sister Rosemary called “Sewing Hope” and the other about his son’s addiction and death, called “What’s Your Fate”.
In November 2013, Reggie was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Rachelle, live in Edmond and have raised five children.
Twelve prominent OU Law alumni have previously been inducted into the OU College of Law Hall of Fame.
2011 Honorees include:
• William G. Paul, American Bar Association president from 1999 to 2000 and of counsel for Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City
• W. DeVier Pierson, co-chair of the OU College of Law Board of Visitors and special counsel for Hunton & Williams in Washington, D.C.
• William J. Ross, co-chair of the OU College of Law Board of Visitors and chairman of the board of the Inasmuch Foundation in Oklahoma City
• and Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher (in memoriam), a civil rights leader, OU Regent from 1992 to 1993, and the first African American to attend and graduate from OU College of Law.
2012 Honorees include:
• The Honorable Thomas R. Brett, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma from 1979 to 2003 who served as chief judge from 1994 to 1996 and is known for his commitment to ethics in the legal profession
• James T. Comfort and William T. Comfort Jr., who established the Comfort Scholarship, Nathalie Pierrepont Scholarship and Top 10 Scholarship, which since 1994 have provided more than $5 million in scholarships to 893 OU law students
• J. Hugh Roff Jr., a leader in the oil and gas industry and president, CEO and chairman of Roff Resources LLC and Roff Oil & Gas
• and Alma Bell Wilson (in memoriam), the first female appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the first female chief justice.
2013 Honorees include:
• The Honorable Michael Burrage, former federal judge in all three U.S. District Courts in Oklahoma
• The Honorable Kathy Taylor, former Mayor of Tulsa and Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce
• The Honorable Ralph Thompson, retired federal judge, former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and U.S. Air Force officer
• and The Honorable Lee West, senior federal judge and U.S. Marine Corps officer during the Korean War.
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