Ardmore native Millie Otey has been honored by the University of Tulsa College of Law for her dedication to making legal services accessible to everyone.
The Tulsa County District Court Special District Judge, was named the recipient of the W. Thomas Coffman Award for Community Service. The award, which lauds Otey "for exemplary service to the legal profession and The University of Tulsa College of Law," was presented May 18 during the Law Alumni Gala in the Vista Room of the Gilcrease Museum.
Although she acknowledged her pleasure in receiving the honor Otey down played her role in providing services to those who otherwise might not have legal guidance.
"I'm just the one that got the award," she said adding, "It's very gratifying that my law school would acknowledge all the volunteers that make up the service. You can't do community service without lots of volunteers. "
And she said community service is a cause she will continue to champion.
"There are still quite a few cases that would benefit from pro bono services — adoption for example or women who find it necessary for a protective order. Growing more services for those who can afford a lawyer is very important. We (Tulsa County Bar Association) have a program called Giving and Growing and we have a large panel of attorney's that are assisting people in that way."
A member of the Ardmore High School Class of 1970, Otey said the law is a family tradition. Her father, George, was an attorney and two of her brothers are also attorneys.
"There are 13 or 14 others in the family who are lawyers and my husband (Sam Daniel III) is a lawyer," she said.
Did the family tradition play a role in her own decision to practice law? Yes.
"When you grow up at the table with lawyers that's what the conversation is about," she said.
Otey earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado. She attended Oxford University in 1978 and received her Juris Doctor from Tulsa College of law in 1979.
Prior to her role on the bench, she practiced general trial and appellate litigation. She served as Judge of the Municipal Criminal Court of the City of Tulsa prior to becoming a Special District Judge in the 14th Judicial District of Oklahoma. In 1996, 50 years after Norma Wheaton served as the first woman president of the TBA, Otey became the second woman to lead the organization. She was also the first woman Tulsa County Bar Foundation President, where she began an effort to establish a scholarship committee and program.
In addition, she has served as an Adjunct Settlement Judge and a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association's Professional Tribunal. Since 1992 she has continuously served as a Tulsa County OBA Delegate to the House of Delegates and also served as OBA vice president.
Otey is the recipient of Mona Salyer Lambird Spotlight Award, of one of the highest awards presented to woman in the Oklahoma Bar Association. She was featured in the OBA's centennial celebration book as one of the woman attorneys who have made significant contributions to the legal profession in the state.
A Sustaining Fellow and current Oklahoma Bar Foundation Trustee and Grants and Awards Committee Chairman, she is a Commissioner for the Mandatory Continuing Education Commission; member of the American Bar Association's Steering Committee for the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and chairperson of OBA's Bench and Bar Committee. She is also a member of the OBA Nominations Committee and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, as well as cochairman of the Pro Bono Committee for the TBA.
Otey can be described in one word — passionate about her vocation.
But how does she define her profession?
"We have a very noble profession. By-in-large lawyers are good people in the nonviolent problem solving business. There are a lot of good lawyers in Oklahoma and I'm very proud to be one of them," she said.