Judge resigns from Denver-based appeals court
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ World Correspondent
Friday, December 11, 2009
12/11/09 at 4:49 AM
DENVER — Robert H. Henry, prominent in Oklahoma government and public affairs for many years, is giving up his lifetime position on the federal appeals court that serves Oklahoma to become head of Oklahoma City University.
Henry's decision, announced Thursday, came as a shock to friends, colleagues and staff of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has been chief judge for the past 23 months.
His resignation will create a vacancy on the Denver-based court, which has 12 fulltime judges, that President Obama will fill. Traditionally, a vacancy is filled by someone from the same state as the judge who created the vacancy.
The 10th Circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Former President Bill Clinton appointed Henry to the 10th Circuit, where has served for almost 16 years. He could have remained on the court for life at full pay, currently about $180,000, but will leave it on June 30.
Henry, 56, becomes president and chief executive officer of OCU, succeeding Tom J. McDaniel, who will take a new position as chancellor in July. OCU is a 105-year-old private, Methodist-affiliated institution with 3,700 students.
Henry is a cousin of Gov. Brad Henry and is a native of Shawnee, where he started his career as a lawyer.
Robert Henry served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1977, while still a student at the University of Oklahoma, until 1986 when he was elected state attorney general, a post he held until 1991.
He resigned that post to become dean of the OCU law school, where he was when he became a federal circuit judge in 1994.
Henry wasn't available for comment. But, in a statement issued by OCU, he said his opportunity to return to the university "is an exciting challenge that my wife, Jan, and I wholeheartedly embrace.
"The university has a great faculty and continues to attract gifted students from around the world, including my son Josh, who is a theater major."
The 10th Circuit court's only judge from Tulsa, Stephanie K. Seymour, was reported out of the country and unavailable for comment.
The judge serving the longest on the court, Senior Judge William J. Holloway Jr., said Henry's resignation "came as a shock." Holloway, speaking from his chambers in Oklahoma City, said, "We didn't know he was contemplating leaving."
Ron Norick, OCU trustee and head of the presidential search committee, said Henry "brings national and international visibility to the university." In a statement issued by OCU, Norick, a former Oklahoma City mayor, said Henry is "an acclaimed foreign relations scholar and international humanitarian" in addition to his "exceptional legal and public service skills."
Holloway, who has served on the court since 1968, said the 10th Circuit court and "all the federal courts of our circuit will keenly miss Chief Judge Henry and his leadership. He has been a devoted judicial officer and we are most indebted to him."
Robert H. Henry: Appointed during Pres. Clinton's admistration, he expects to become head of Oklahoma City University.