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New Oklahoma Supreme Court chief justice sworn in

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor stayed true to his no-nonsense reputation during a forthright swearing-in ceremony Monday.

“It is not a job — it is a mission,” Taylor, 61, said after taking the oath of office Monday as chief justice.

Taylor's remarks were brief and blunt at Monday's ceremony, which he deliberately spared of any pomposity or fanfare.

“We've got work to do now, so court's adjourned,” Taylor said soon after he took his oath.

Taylor, who for the past two years has been the court's vice chief justice, succeeds Justice James Edmondson as chief justice.

As the presiding officer of the state's highest court, the chief justice is the key administrator of the court's many functions.

Taylor will serve a two-year term in the post.

His first act Monday as chief justice was to administer the oath of office to new Vice Chief Justice Tom Colbert, who like Taylor was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Brad Henry in 2004.

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Taylor spent more than 20 years as a trial judge in various state courts.

He conducted more than 500 trials and gained prominence while overseeing the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

Many in the legal community at the time said no other judge in Oklahoma could have handled the case as well as Taylor.

“Terry Nichols can feel comfortable he will get a fair trial. In my opinion, there couldn't be a better judge,” former Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy said in 1999.

Once the case went to trial in 2004, Taylor cemented his “tough but fair” reputation by keeping the high-profile trial on track and without any errors that could have caused a verdict to be reversed upon appeal.

“I live and breathe this — that what goes on in my courtroom is fair,” Taylor told attorneys in the case before the trial began.

Like his orders from the bench, Taylor's remarks Monday were direct and to the point.

“In keeping with the very austere session of court that I have directed for this occasion, I'm not going to be making any long introductions and certainly no speeches,” Taylor said.

Several dignitaries were in the Supreme Court chamber to see Taylor take his oath of office.

Outgoing Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and her successor, Todd Lamb, stood near former Senate Pro Tem Glenn Coffee and his successor, Brian Bingman. Oklahoma State University President Burn Hargis sat in the front row, not far from former Gov. George Nigh, who jump-started Taylor's judicial career when he named him an associate district judge for Pittsburg County in 1984.


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