District judge candidates, Dale Marlar and Dynda Post, agree the judicial process should be “neutral,” but incumbent Judge Dynda Post takes her job one step farther, “neutral, but commited.”

In a short presentation and question session during the recent Chamber of Commerce sponsored candidate forum, Post’s defended her 12-year record on the bench.

Fellow attorney John Crockett spoke on behalf of Marlar, who is a second-time candidate for the district judge seat held by Post.

Crockett told the audience, Marlar has a vision for this court system that calls for “courteous and fair treatment.”

“That’s what he wants for you.

“You don’t want a judge that has a predisposition for any particular side,” Crockett said. “A judge should be the most neutral person you would ever meet in your life. You want that person to hear that evidence and apply it fairly to the law. Everyone deserves a chance,” he said.

Post countered, “Nuetral but commited.

“You need a judge that is neutral but commited,” she said, “commited to the job, commited to the task and understands the responsibility that it carries. You also need a judge with experience. I hold myself out as having the experience you need to do this job right and to do the job in the way people expect. It’s not a halfway job. It’s an awesome privilege but also an awesome responsbility and you have to take it seriously.

“It matters who your judge is ... even if you never go to the courthouse, even if you never walk through the door, even if you never know somebody up at the courthouse. It matters. It matters to you because it affects the entire community. Judges make awesome decisions and make life and death decisions every day. What we do impacts everybody around us. It affects the community as well and it is important that you make your decisions based upon the law and based upon what you know to be the right thing to do no matter who it is,” Post said.

Crockett said Marlar, a longtime Claremore resident who has lived and raised his family in the county, is also a practicing attorney who has previously served as city judge, attorney and chief prosecutor for the City of Claremore.

Marlar is also an active member of the community. Among his civic activities, Marlar is a member of the board for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program and also works with the Rogers County Work Training Center.

Crockett shared an observation about Marlar’s generosity and commitment to helping others.

“Dale Marlar has been very active in the community. He’s been active on the Work Training Center Board of Directors ... He’s taken the entire group to OU games. I don’t know if you know, but these people are physically limited and handicap. It was a huge endeavor. He didn’t do it for any other reason but to share,” Crockett said.

Post said she came to this judicial district in 1980 as a practicing attorney in Vinita which is located in Craig County.

She later joined the District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor for six years and was appointed special judge in 1989.

She was then elected to office “by the people” in 1994 and has served 12 years ont he District court bench serving Craig, Mayes and Rogers County.

Post is primarily seated in Rogers County.

Her observation over the last decade: “We are a growing county ... we have new numbers at the courthouse, we have new cases and new issues as we grow from a more rural county to a more cosmopolitan, larger, more trafficked county. Everything’s gotten bigger and a little more more complicated, especially here in Claremore.

“We make do with what we have and do more with less as the case loads grow there’s more to be done.

“We’ve appointed more judges. We have more dockets.

Post said from the time she took the job in 1995 she has seen the domestic case load increase from two dockets a month to two a week.

“We’ve increased jury terms, to where we have about four to five times more jury trials that we had before,” she said.

Increased dockets and jury terms give people “more access, speedy access and quality access to the courts which is what everyone is entitled to and what everyone should expect from those of us at the courthouse,” she said.

Candidates were questioned about what alternative programs would they be supporting or introducing to address the growing court docket and growing incarceration rates in the district.

Crockett said Marlar’s plan calls for expanding the current Drug Court system.

“Here in Oklahoma as well rest of nation, illegal drug and alcohol abuse lead to crime and all those problems that come from that.

“What we have in place now, is the Drug Court system ... I’m glad to say Drug Court is working well in all three counties of this judical district, Craig, Mayes and Rogers counties,” Crockett said.

But there are some things that need to be addressed “as part of getting people’s life straight,” he said.

The Drug Court program has an 83 percent success rate, Crockett said. “In other words only 17 out of 100 people go through Drug Court tend to reoffend.

“One of things I think that might increase that, I’m speaking for Dale, is to institute in Drug Court a case management system where someone who needs education, a GED, a high school diploma, you can assist them in doing that. If someone needs to learn a trade, you will provide vocation education to them.

“The courts are now trying to do that now, but the funding is a problem,” he said.

“I can assure you that Dale Marlar will aggressively get funding to fully fund the Drug Court programs.”

A new alternative plan Marlar’s campaign supports is the Youthful Offender drunk driving program. Youthful Offender applies to first time offenders 18-25 years of age “and has a wonderful success rate,” Crockett said.

“The success rate has been 98 percent ... only two out of 100 have reoffended. Dale will pledge to you this particulr program will be instituted when he is elected judge.”

Post said she will be accountable and continue programs “we have started” during her 12 years on the bench.

She referred to the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) started in 1995 which provides non-legal representation for children from drug abuse homes, neglected homes and physical abuse homes across the district.

Post said they would continue the new program, Children Coping with Divorce, which educates and counsels children and parents going through divorce.

“Drug Court ... we’ve had for many years. We are a pioneer district in this state. It’s been good, but not without its problems ... it is difficult to manage, difficult to find time to do and difficult to work the partnerships.

Still, Post pledged she will continue to support Drug Court.

Another program in place is the Community Sentencing Council — “one of the first in the state, the only three-county district community sentencing council,” she said.

Community sentencing council is another alternative to probation.

“Some people need to go to prison; some need to be held very, very strictly accountable,” she said.

Post said when looking at alternative programs to the public and help substance abuse and other issues people face, “You need to go upstream. That’s why we started a truancy program.”

This program holds elementary parents accountable “at the threat of going to jail if they don’t take their children to school.”

She said it is now in Mayes County and began as a pilot project in Rogers County.

“... and it was free, it’s a volunteer program, and it didn’t cost the county a dime. If you keep children in school these other problems are not going to happen or are far less likely to happen,” Post said.

“If something else comes along, I will support it,” Post said.

Thursday’s Progress will provide the District 2 Senate candidate comments from the Chamber Forum.

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